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THE BOOK WAS 
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OSMANU UNIVERSITY LIBRARY 

93'4-T/ H ^ S AccesskmNo. 

Author 



This 'book should be returned on or before the date last marked below. 



ALEXANDER HERZEN 



SELECTED 

PHILOSOPHICAL 

WORKS 



FOREIGN LANGUAGES PUBLISHING HOUSE 
Moscow 1956 



The present publication of A. Herzen's works 
is a translation from the Russian two-volume 
edition of Helen's Selected Philosophical Works 
published by the Institute of Philosophy, Academy 
of Sciences of the U.S.S R. (State Publishers ol 
Political Literature, Moscow, 1918). 



Translated from the Russian 
by L. Navrozov 



CONTENTS 

V. I LENIN. In Memory of Herzen . . 5 

DILETTANTISM IN SCIENCE 

1 15 

II. Dilettantes Romanticists 31 

III. The Dilettantes and the Guild of Scientists ..... 49 

IV. Buddhism in Science 71 

LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 

Letter One. Empiricism and Idealism 97 

Letter Two. Science and Nature the Phenomenology of Thought 129 

Letter Three. Greek Philosophy 145 

Letter I'our. The Last Epoch of Ancient Science ^ . . 104 

Letter Five. Scholasticism * . * 225 

Letter Six. Descartes and Bacon 249 

Letter Seven. Bacon and His School in England 262 

Letter Eight. Realism 282 

FROM THE DIARY 306 

APROPOS M GRANOVSKY'S PUBLIC LECTURES 318 

PUBLIC LECTURES BY PROFESSOR RULYE 325 

FROM THE OTHER SHORE 

To My Son Alexander ... .... 336 

Farewell 340 

I. Before the Storm (Conversation on Board Ship) . . . 347 

II. After the Storm 308 

III. The LVIIth Year of the Republic, the One and Indivisible 377 

IV. Vixerunt! 389 

V. Consolatio 414 

VI. The 1849 Epilogue 434 

VII. Omnia Mea Mecum Porto 442 

VIII. Donoso Cortes, Marquis de Valdegamas, and Julian, 

Emperor of Rome . 459 



THE RUSSIAN PEOPLE AND SOCIALISM (Letter to J. Michelet) 470 

LETTER TO A. A. CHUMIKOV 503 

YOUNG MOSCOW (From Thoughts on the Past) 507 

LETTERS TO AN OPPONENT 

Letter One 546 

Letter Two 555 

Letter Three 562 

LETTER TO MY SON ALEXANDER HERZEN 571 

TO AN OLD COMRADE 

Letter One 576 

Letter Two 582 

Letter Three 587 

Letter Four 593 

NOTES 596 

.NAME INDEX 623 



V.I. LENIN 



IN MEMORY OF HERZEN 

ONE HUNDRED years have elapsed since Herzen's birth. The whole 
of liberal Russia is paying homage to him, carefully evading 
the serious questions of socialism, and assiduously concealing 
that % which distinguished Herzen the revolutionary from a lib- 
eral. The conservative press, too, is commemorating the Herzen 
anniversary, mendaciously asserting that in his last years Her- 
zen renounced revolution. And, abroad, phrasemongering reigns 
supreme in the liberal and Narodnik orations on Herzen. 

The working-class party should commemorate the Herzen 
anniversary not for the sake of philistine glorification, but for 
the purpose of making clear its own tasks and ascertaining the 
real place held in history by this writer who played a great part 
in paving the way for the Russian revolution. 

Herzen belonged to the generation of revolutionaries among 
the nobility and landlords of the first half of the piast century. 
The nobility gave Russia the Birens and Arakcheyevs, 1 innumer- 
able "drunkard officers, bullies, gamblers, heroes of fairs, 
whips, roisterers, floggers, pimps," as well as amiable Mani- 
lovs. 2 "Bui," wrole Herzen, "among Ihem developed the men 
of December 14, a phalanx of heroes reared, like Romulus iand 
Remus, on the milk of a wild beast They were titans, ham- 
mered out of pure steel from head to foot comrades-in-arms who 
knowingly went to certain death in order to awaken the young 
generation to a new life and to purify the children born in an 
environment of tyranny and servility." 

Herzen was one of those children. The uprising of the Decem- 
brists 3 awakened and "purified" him. In feudal Russia of the 
forties of the nineteenth century he rose to a height which 
placed him on a level with the greatest Ihinkers of -his time. He 



6 V. I. LENIN 

assimilated Hegel's dialectics. He realized that it was "the alge- 
bra of revolution/ 1 He went further than Hegel, following 
Feuerbach to materialism. The first of his Letters on the Study 
of Nature, "Empiricism and Idealism," written in 1844, reveals 
to us a thinker who even now stands head and shoulders above 
the multitude of modern empiricist natural scientists and the 
swarms of present-day idealist and semi-idealist philosophers. 
Herzen stood on the threshold of dialectical materialism, and 
halted before historical materialism. 

It wias this "halt" thai caused Herzen's spiritual shipwreck 
after the defeat of the revolution of 1848. Herzen had already 
left Russia and watched the revolution at close range. He was 
la democrat at the time, a revolutionary, a Socialist But his "so- 
cialism" was one of the numerous forms and varieties of bour- 
geois and petty-bourgeois socialism characteristic of the epoch 
of 1848, which were dealt their death-blow in the June days. In 
point of fact, this was not socialism at all, but merely sentimen- 
.tal phrases, benign visions, in which was embodied the then rev- 
olutionariness of the bourgeois democracy, as well as of the 
proletariat which had not freed itself from its influence. 

Herzen's spiritual shipwreck, the profound scepticism and 
pessimism to which he fell prey after 1848, was the shipwreck 
of the bourgeois illusions of socialism. Herzen's spiritual drama 
was a product and reflection of that epoch in world history 
when the revolutionariness of the bourgeois democracy was al- 
ready passing away (in Europe), and the revolutionariness of 
the socialist proletariat had not yet ripened. This is something 
the Russian liberal knights of verbal incontinence, who are now 
trying to cover up their own counter-revolutionariness by florid 
phrases about Herzen's scepticism, have not understood and 
cannot understand. With these knights, who betrayed the Rus- 
sian Revolution of 1905, and have even forgotten to think of the 
great calling of ia revolutionary, scepticism is a form of transi- 
tion from democracy to liberalism to that servUe, vile, infa- 
mous and brutal liberalism which shot down the workers in 
1848, restored shattered thrones, applauded Napoleon III and 
which Herzen cursed, unable to understand its class nature. 

With Herzen scepticism was a form of transition from the 
illusions of "iabove-class" bourgeois democratism to the stern, 



IN MEMORY OF HERZEN 7 

inexorable and invincible class struggle of the proletariat. The 
proof: the "Letters to an Old Comrade," to Bakunin, written by 
Herzen in 1869, a year before his death. In them Her/en breaks 
with the anarchist Bakunin. True, Herzen still sees in this break 
nothing more than a disagreement on tactics; h.? does not see 
the gulf between the world outlook of the proletarian who is 
confident of the victory of his class and that of the petty bour- 
geois who has despaired of his salvation. True enough, in these 
letters Herzen again repeats the old bourgeois-democratic 
phrases to the effect that socialism must preach "a sermon 
addressed equally to workman and master, to farmer and 
burgher." But for all that, in breaking with Bakunin, Herzen 
turned his gaze not to liberalism but to the International to 
the International led by Marx, to the International which had 
begun to "rally the legions" of the proletariat, to unite "the 
world of labour'' "which is abandoning the world of those who 
enjoy without working." 



Failing as he did to understand the bourgeois-democratic es- 
sence of the entire movement of 1848 and of all the forms of pre- 
Marxist socialism, Herzen was still less able to understand the 
bourgeois nature of the Russian revolution. Herzen is the found- 
er of "Russian" socialism, "Narodism." He saw "socialism" 
in the emancipation of the peasants with land, in community 
landownership and in the peasant idea of "the right to the 
land." His pet ideas on this subject he set forth an untold num- 
ber of times. 

Actually, in this doctrine of Herzen's, as, indeed, in the whole 
of Russian Narodism, right down to the faded Narodism of the 
present-day "Socialist-Revolutionaries," there is not a grain of 
socialism. Like the various forms of "the socialism of 1848" in 
the West, this is the same -sort of sentimental phrases, the same 
sort of benign visions, enwrapping the revolutionariness of 
the bourgeois peasant democracy in Russia. The greater the 
amount of land the peasants would have received in 1861 and 
the cheaper the price they would have had to pay for it, the more 
strongly would the power of the feudal landlords have been 



8 V. 1. LENIN 

undermined and the more rapidly, fully and widely would capi- 
talism have developed in Russia. The idea of "the right to the 
land" and of "equal distribution of the land" represents but the 
formulated revolutionary aspirations to achieve equality cher- 
ished by the peasants fighting for the complete overthrow of the 
power of the landlords, for the complete abolition of land- 
lordism. 

This was fully proved by the Revolution of 1905. On the one 
hand, the proletariat came out quite independently at the head 
of the revolutionary struggle, having created the Social-Demo- 
cratic Labour Party; on the other hand, the revolutionary peas- 
ants (the 'Trudoviks" 4 and the "Peasant League") who 
fought for every form of the abolition of landlordism, going as 
far as demanding "the abolition of private property in land," 
fought precisely as proprietors, as small entrepreneurs. 

In our day, the controversy over the "socialist nature" of the 
right to land, etc., serves only to obscure and gloss over the 
really important and vital historical question: the difference of 
interests of the liberal bourgeoisie and the revolutionary peas- 
antry in the Russian bourgeois revolution; in other words, the 
question of the liberal and the democratic, the "compromising" 
(monarchist) and the republican trends in this revolution. This 
is exactly the question which Herzen's Kotokol 5 posed, if we 
look beyond the words and get down to the essentials, if we in- 
vestigate the class struggle as the basis of "theories" and doc- 
trines and not vice versa. 

Herzen created a free Russian press abroad that was the 
great service which he rendered. Polyarnaya Zvezda 6 took up 
the tradition of the Decembrists. Kolokol (1857-07) stalwartly 
championed the emancipation of the peasants. The slavish si- 
lence was broken. 

But Herzen had a landlord, aristocratic background. He had 
left Russia in 1847; he had not seen the revolutionary people 
and could have no faith in it. Hence, his liberal appeal to the 
"upper ranks." Hence, his numerous sugary letters in Kolokol 
addressed to Alexander II the Hangman, which today one can- 
not read without a feeling of disgust. Chernyshevsky, Dobro- 
lyubov, and Serno-Solovyevich, who represented the new gen- 
eration of revolutionary commoners, were a thousand times 



IN MEMORY OF flERZEN 9 

right when they reproached Herzen for these lapses from democ- 
ratism to liberalism. However, it must be said in fairness to 
Herzen that, much as he vacillated between democratism and 
liberalism, the democnat in him nevertheless gained the upper 
hand. 

When Kavelin, one of the most repulsive types representative 
of liberal obsequiousness who at one time was enthusiastic 
about Kolokol for the very reason that it manifested liberal ten- 
dencies came out against a constitution, attacked revolution- 
ary agitation, condemned "violence" and appeals to it, iand be- 
gan to preach tolerance, Herzen broke with this liberal sage. 
Herzen turned upon his "meagre, absurd, harmful pamphlet" 
written "for the private guidance of the government in its liber- 
al pretence," denounced Kavelin's "sentimental political max- 
ims" which represented "the Russian people as cattle and the 
government as the embodiment of wisdom." Kolokol printed an 
article entitled "Epitaph," which lashed out against "professors 
weaving the rotten cobweb of their supercilious and paltry 
ideas, ex-professors, once unsophisticated and subsequently 
embittered because the healthy youth cannot sympathize with 
their scrofulous thought." Kavelin at once recognized himself 
in this portrait. 

When Chernyshevsky was arrested, Kavelin, that vile liberal, 
wrote: "I see nothing reprehensible in the arrests ... the revo- 
lutionary party considers all means proper for the purpose of 
overthrowing the government, and the government is defending 
itself by its own means." As if in retort to this Cadet, Herzen 
wrote in his article dealing with Chernyshevsky's trial: "And 
here are wretches, people comparable to gnass under our feet, 
slimy creatures, who say that we must not denounce the gang 
of robbers and scoundrels that is governing us." 

When the liberal Turgenev wrote a private letter to Alexan- 
der II assuring him that he was a loyal and obedient subject, 
and donated two gold pieces for the soldiers wounded during 
the suppression of the Polish insurrection, Kolokot wrote of "the 
grey-haired Magdalen (of the masculine gender) who wrote 
to the tsar to tell him that she knew no sleep because she was 
tormented by the thought that the tsar was not aware of the 



10 V. I. LENIN 

repentance that had befallen her." And Turgenev at once 
recognized himself. 

When the whole pack of Russian liberals scurried away from 
Herzen for his defence of Poland, when the whole of "educated 
society" turned its back on Kolokol, Herzen was not dismayed. 
He went on championing the freedom of Poland and castigat- 
ing the suppressors, the butchers, the hangmen in the service 
of Alexander II. Herzen saved the honour of Russian democra- 
cy. "We have saved the honour of the Russian name," he wrote 
to Turgenev, "and for doing so we have suffered at the hands 
of the slavish majority." 

In commenting on a report concerning ia serf peasant who 
killed a landlord for an attempt to rape his betrothed, Herzen 
exclaimed in Kolokot: "Well done!" When it was reported that 
army officers would be appointed to superintend the "peace- 
able" progress of "emancipation," Herzen wrote: "The first wise 
colonel who, with his troops, instead of crushing tta peasants, 
will take their side, is sure to ascend the throne of the Roma- 
novs." When Colonel Reitern shot himself in Warsaw (1860) 
because he did not want to be an accomplice of the hangmen, 
Herzen wrote: "If any shooting is to be done, it is the generals 
who give orders to fire upon unarmed people that should be 
shot." When fifty peasants were killed in Bezdna, and their 
leader Anton Petrov was executed (April 12, 1861), Herzen 
wrote in Kolokol: 

"Oh, if only my words could reach you, toiler and sufferer of 
the Russian land!. . . I would teach you to despise your spirit- 
ual shepherds, placed over you by the St. Petersburg Synod 

and a German tsar You hate the landlord, you hate the 

official, you fear them and rightly so; but you still believe in 
the tsar and the bishop ... do not believe them. The tsar is with 
them and they iare with the tsar. It is him you now see you, 
the father of the youth murdered in Bezdna, and you, the son 
of a father murdered in Penza. . . . Your shepherds are as igno- 
rant as you are and as poor as you Such was the monk An- 
thony (not Bishop Anthony, but Anton of Bezdna) who suffered 
for you in Kazan. . . . The corpses of your saints will not per- 
form forty-eight miracles, and praying to them will not cure 



IN MEMORY OF HERZEN 11 

a toothache; but their living memory may produce one mira- 
cle your emancipation." 

This shows how infamously and vilely Herzen is being slan- 
dered by our liberals entrenched in the slavish "legal" press, 
who extol the weak points in Herzen and are silent about his 
strong points. It is not Herzen's fault, but his misfortune, that 
he could not see the revolutionary people in Russia itself in the 
1840's. When he did behold the revolutionary people in the six- 
ties he fearlessly took the side of the revolutionary democracy 
against liberalism. He fought for a victory of the people over 
tsarism, not for a deal between the liberal bourgeoisie and the 
landlords' tsar. He raised aloft the banner of revolution. 



In commemorating Herzen we clearly see the three genera- 
tions, the three classes that were active in the Russian revolu- 
tion. At first nobles and landlords, the Decembrists and Her- 
zen. The circle of these revolutionaries was a narrow one. They 
were very far removed from the people. But their work was not 
in vain. The Decembrists awakened Herzen. Herzen launched 
revolutionary agitation. 

This agitation was taken up, extended, strengthened, land 
tempered by the revolutionary commoners, beginning with 
Chernyshevsky and ending with the heroes of the "Narodnaya 
Volya." The circle of fighters widened, their contacts with the 
people became closer. 'The young helmsmen of the impending 
storm," Herzen said of them. But as yet it was not the storm 
itself. 

The storm is the movement of the masses themselves. The 
proletariat, the only class that is revolutionary to the end, rose 
at the head of the masses and for the first time aroused millions 
of peasants to open revolutionary struggle. The first onslaught 
in this storm took place in 1905. The next is beginning 4o de- 
velop before our very eyes. 

In commemorating Herzen, the proletariat is learning from 
his example to appreciate the great importance of revolutionary 
theory. It is learning that selfless devotion to the revolution and 
the work of revolutionary propaganda among the people are 



12 V. I. LENIN 

not wasted even if long decades divide the sowing from the 
harvest. It is learning to define the role of the various classes 
in the Russian and in the international revolution. Enriched by 
these lessons, the proletariat will fight its way through to a 
free union with the socialist workers of all lands. It will crush 
that vile thing, the tsarist monarchy, against which Herzen 
was the first to raise the great banner of struggle by addressing 
his free Russian words to the masses.* 



* V. I. Lenin, Selected Works. Two-Vol. ecL Vol. I. DO. 633-38. 1946. 



ALEXANDER HERZEN 



SELECTED PHILOSOPHICAL 
WORKS 



DILETTANTISM IN SCIENCE 7 



WE LIVE on the borderland of two worlds: hence the constraint 
and uneasiness which weighs upon thinking people. The old 
convictions and former conceptions are shaken, but still dear 
to our hearts. The new ideas, great and all-embracing as they 
may be, have not yet borne fruit. The early buds and leaves, 
indeed, hold promise of magnificent flowers, but they have not 
yet even blossomed and they are alien to us. Many are left 
without convictions, old or new. Others have mechanically 
mixed a little of both and found themselves in a dreary twilight. 
Superficial people in such a condition abandon themselves en- 
tirely to the bustle of everyday life. But people given to medi- 
tation suffer and seek to reconcile the differences at all cost. 
Mian cannot live in internal discord, with the cornerstone of his 
moral basis missing. Meanwhile, universal reconciliation in the 
world of thought was being proclaimed by science which divid- 
ed those who craved reconciliation into two camps: the one side 
refused to believe science, refused to take it up, to weigh its 
findings, to travel its hard way. "Our aching hearts," they say, 
"must be soothed; we cry for bread and science gives us stones. 
Our broken hearts plead for compassion, we lament and groan, 
and science replies with cold reason and generalizations. Its 
inaccessible logic can gratify neither the mystics nor the prac- 
tical people. Deliberately it speaks a language difficult to un- 
derstand in order to hide the dry sterility of its fundamental 
ideas behind the thicket of scholasticism elle ria pas d'entrail- 
les" The other side, on the contrary, has found superficial rec- 
onciliation and the solution to everything by an illegitimate 
method. They have memorized the letter of science, without 
touching upon its vital spirit. So superficial are these people 



16 A. HERZEN 



that everything seems marvellously easy to them. They have a 
ready-made solution for every problem. To hear them talk one 
might think that science has nothing left to do. They have their 
own Koran in which they believe and from which they cite ex- 
cerpts as ultimate proof. These Mohammedans of science 8 are ex- 
tremely injurious to its progress. It was Henry IV who used to 
say: "Let Providence protect me from my friends and I shall 
see to my enemies." Precisely such friends of science, mistaken- 
ly identified with science, vindicate the hatred of its enemies, 
while true science remains in the small family of the elect. 

But even if it were limited to a single individual, science 
would nonetheless be a fact, a great event no longer potential 
but come true; and one cannot deny an accomplished fact. Such 
events never occur before their time; but the time has come and 
science has acquired its true meaning. The human spirit, hav- 
ing gone through all the stages of self-cognition, has begun to 
unravel the truth, ia symmetrical scientific organism, and a liv- 
mg organism at that. The future of science is secure. We are 
sorry, however, for the generation which, though it may perceive 
the dawn if not the day, suffers in darkness and is preoccupied 
with trifles only because it is turned away from the rising 
sun. Why should these pilgrims be deprived of the blessings of 
both worlds: of the past, dead world sometimes invoked by 
them, but which appears in a shroud, and of the present world 
as yet uncreated for them? 

Philosophy cannot at present be received by the masses. As a 
science philosophy presupposes a certain degree of intellectual 
development, without which one cannot reach and enter its 
sphere. Abstract speculation is altogether beyond the masses; 
they accept only what is tangible. Philosophy, however, is too 
young to drop its artificial language and pass into the universal 
consciousness, to be received by the family and the people ai 
large, to serve as a real guide to acti9n and source of ideas for 
every man. It has not reached that degree of development: il 
still has much to do in its own house, in the sphere of abstract 
thought. None but the Mohammedans of philosophy imagine 
that all is finished in science notwithstanding its elaborate 
forms, the abundance of its growing content and its dialectical 
method so clear and evident to the initiated. And yet, if science 



DILETTANTISM IN SCIENCE 17 

is inaccessible to the masses, the latter at least have been spared 
the sense of frustration produced by mental poverty, and the 
artificiality and hysteria of pietism. The truth is not beyond the 
masses: they find it through divine revelation. Deplorable is the 
state of those who find themselves on the cross-roads between 
the natural simplicity of the masses and the rational simplicity 
of science. 

For the moment we beg leave to spare for a time the tranquil- 
lity and quietism of the formalists and will turn our attention 
entirely upon the enemies of modern science. We refer to whal 
we call the dilettantes and the romanticists. Formalists at least 
do not suffer, but these people are unwell. They are sick oi 
living. 

Properly speaking, science has no enemies in Europe, except, 
perhaps, for some castes who are eking out their last days in 
futility, and these are so absurd that no one ever argues with 
them. The dilettantes in general are friends of science, nos amis 
les ennemis, las Beranger says, but they are inimical to it in its 
present state. They are all inclined to philosophize, but to philos- 
ophize easily, pleasantly, and only within certain limits. They 
are, firstly, the tender souls, the dreamers who are hurt by the 
utilitarianism of the age, who aspire to the universal realization 
of their sweet Utopias, but cannot find them in science, upon 
which they have turned their backs for that reason, and confine 
themselves to their own narrow hopes and illusions and are 
fruitlessly wasting away in misty mirages. Secondly, there are 
the real admirers of positivism, the people who have lost the 
spirit of science in a maze of details and obstinately cling to ra- 
tionalistic abstractions and analytical dissections. Finally, the 
gallery includes those who have just come of age and imagine 
that science is easy (from their point of view) , and that the de- 
sire to know is the same as knowing. Science, however, does 
not come easy to them and for this they bear it a grudge. They 
have neither strong aptitude nor the habit of persistent work, 
nor the desire to make sacrifices for the truth. They have tasted 
the fruit of knowledge and sadly declare that it is sour and rot- 
ten. They are something like the good man who speaks with 
tears in his eyes about the shortcomings of his friend, while 

21157 



IS A. HERZBN 

other good people believe him because of his friendship for the 
unfortunate fellow. 

The romanticists are eking out their last days at the side of 
the dilettantes. As belated representatives of the past, they are 
lamenting the deceased world which once seemed eternal to 
them. They refuse to deal with the new world otherwise than 
with lance in hand. In the best medieval traditions they imitate 
Don Quixote and, donning the robes of grief and affliction, they 
bewail the downfall of man. They are ready, however, to rec- 
ognize science, but in exchange demand that science admit the 
one absolute truth, that Dulcinea del Toboso is the queen of 
beauty. The time has come to regard people without passion or 
prejudice. The age of maturity has arrived land one may speak 
not only of the sweet truths, but of the bitter ones as well. It 
is time to voice a protest against the dilettantes of science, be- 
cause they are slanderers of science, because they are pitiful, 
and, finally, because they deserve more attention in our country 
than elsewhere. 

One of the essential qualities of the Russian character is its 
extraordinary dexterity in accepting and adopting the fruits of 
other people's labour, this being done not only with facility but 
with deftness. This is one of the most human traits of our char- 
acter. There is a serious drawback to this quality however. We 
are riarely capable of thorough and sustained effort. We have 
acquired a taste for making others draw the chestnuts out of the 
fire and we have come to take for granted that Europe should 
produce every truth and discovery by the sweat of her brow. Let 
her have all the trouble of the pregnancy, of the difficult child- 
birth and weary nursing, and we will take the child. But there 
is one thing we have overlooked: the child is not of our flesh and 

blood and there are no organic ties between it and us And 

this is not yet all. As we approached modern science we must 
have been surprised by its resistance. Science can grow any- 
where, but it will' never produce a harvest where it has not been 
sown. Science must germinate and mature not only in every 
nation, but in every individual as well. We should like to seize 
the result, we should like to catch it like a fly, but as we open 
our palm we either delude ourselves with the thought that we 
have been clutching the absolute or are disappointed to find the 



DILETTANTISM IN SCIENCE 19 

hand empty. The fiact is that science as such is in existence and 
to that extent yields great results. Apart from it the result does 
not exist at all. Similarly, the head of a man may be seething 
with ideas, but only if the neck attaches it to the body, without 
which it is but an empty shell. This must surprise and offend 
our native dilettantes fiar more than the dilettantes of other 
countries, for our notions of science and its ways are much less 
developed than elsewhere. With tears in their eyes, our dilettantes 
complain that they have been deceived in their expectations by 
the perfidious science of the West, that its findings are obscure 
and incoherent, though they must admit that that so-and-so 
has some sound ideas. Such talk is harmful to us, because, our 
elementary notions of science being still unformed, there is no 
absurdity or obsolescence which our dilettantes cannot put over 
with amazing assurance, and which their listeners will not be- 
lieve implicitly. There are preliminary truths in Germany which 
are taken for granted. Not so with us. Nobody ever speaks 
about them any longer there, while here no one has spoken of 
them yet. In the West the war against modern science is being 
waged by certain deeply national elements which have been de- 
veloping for centuries and have hardened in their individuality. 
Their memories of the past do not allow them to give ground; 
such, for instance, are the pietists in Germany, engendered by 
the one-sided character of Protestantism. Lamentable as their 
position is their exclusion from modern life the peculiar te- 
nacity and consistency of their desperate battle cannot be de- 
nied. But even when they do contract these foreign maladies, 
our dilettantes have no antecedent truths to support them, and 
their superficiality and inconsistency is therefore astonishing. 
They are not ashamed to retreat, for they have never (advanced 
a step. They have always been dawdling idlers in the vestibules 
of science; they have never had a home of their own. If they 
could overcome their oriental indolence and concentrate on 
science in all earnest, they would join hands with it. But that is 
just the trouble. As grown-ups, we are annoyed with science 
just as we were annoyed with our grammar books at the age of 
eight. Difficulty and obscurity are our chief complaints; to these 
we add other objections: poetical, moral, patriotic, sentimental. 
Long ago Goethe said: "When it is argued that a book is obscure, 



20 A. HER ZEN 

it is necessary to ask whether the obscurity is in the book, 
or in the head." And indeed, there is something sloth and inde- 
cent in constantly pleading difficulty, something unworthy of 
argument.* Science comes to no one without effort that is true; 
there is no other wiay of getting on in science but by the sweat 
of one's brow. Neither fits of passion, nor flights of imagina- 
tion, nor one's whole heart's desire can be substituted for work. 
Our dilettantes, however, do not want to work, and console 
themselves with the thought that modern science is as yet put- 
ting its materials in ordei, that for the present, inhuman efforts 
are required to comprehend it, but that soon there will be an- 
other sort of science, an easy one, which will fall from the 
heavens or spring from the earth. 

"Difficult, incomprehensible!" How can they tell? Is it pos- 
sible to know the degree of difficulty in science by keeping away 
from it? Are there no formal principles in science which are 
simple precisely because they are principles, undeveloped gener- 
alities? On the other hand, they are right when they plead in- 
comprehension, more so than they think. If we try to discover 
why many people cannot acquire a knowledge of science in spite 
of their desire, in spite of their longing for the truth, we shall 
find that the one fundamental and universal reason is that they 
do not understand what science is and do not know what they 
want from it. But, one may ask, for whom is science meant, if 
those who are fond of it and aspire to it do not understand it? 
Does this imply that science, like alchemy, exists only for the 
adepts who possess the clue to its hieroglyphic language? 
Nothing of the sort. Modern science is within the ken of anyone 
with a living spirit, of anyone capable of self-denial and a sim- 
ple approach. The trouble is that these gentry approach science 
in an intricate way, with "mental reservations." They put it to 
the test, make demands upon it, giving nothing in return. And, 
be they as wise as serpents, science remains a senseless for- 
malism to them, a logical casse-tete, a thing with no substance. 

To recognize the truth one must renounce personal convic- 
tions: rivalling the truth, the personality confines it, bends and 



* I dare say we bring another absurd accusation against science, viz., 
why should it use unfamiliar words? Unfamiliar to whom? A.M. 



DILETTANTISM IN SCIENCE 21 

twists it, and arbitrarily subjugates it. They who would preserve 
their personal convictions seek not the truth, but that which 
they call the truth. It is not science that appeals to them, but 
that vague hankering for it in which they are at ease to dream 
and flatter themselves. These searchers for wisdom, each pur- 
suing his own path, highly appreciate their own exploits, and 
love their own clever personalities too dearly to set them aside. 
There was a time when much was forgiven for the love of sci- 
ence. But that time has passed. Platonic love alone is no longer 
sufficient: we are realists iand desire love translated into action. 
Now what is it that makes one cling to personal convictions? 
egotism. Egotism hates the universal, severs the man from 
humanity, puts him into an exclusive position; all is alien to him 
but his own personality. He carries with him his malignant 
atmosphere which no ray of light can penetrate without being 
deformed. Hand in hand with egotism goes haughty arrogance 
which opens the book of science with insolent levity; whereas 
respect for the truth is the beginning of wisdom. 

Philosophy's position in regard to her lovers is no better than 
that of Penelope in the absence of Ulysses. Nothing protects 
her neither the figures and formulae of mathematics, nor the 
fences put up around their kitchen gardens by the specialized 
sciences. The extraordinary universality of philosophy makes it 
appear accessible to the outsider. The more universal the 
thought and the more it rests on universality, the better it lends 
itself to superficial comprehension, for the particulars are not 
brought to the surface and their existence is not even suspect- 
ed. When looking at the placid sea from the shore one may won- 
der at the timidity of the swimmers: the immobile waters make 
one forget their depth and voracity they seem to be made of 
crystal or of ice but the swimmer knows better. In philosophy, 
as in the sea, there is neither ice nor crystal: everything is mov- 
ing, flowing, palpitating, and is equally deep at all points. In 
philosophy, as in a blazing hearth, all that is hard and solid is 
swept into the fiery vortex without beginning or -end and is melt- 
ed down. The molten surface, like that of the sea, is smooth, 
placid, serene, boundless iand mirrors the sky. Owing to this op- 
tical illusion, the dilettantes boldly approach, without fear of the 
truth or respect for the hereditary efforts of humanity which has 



li A. HER ZEN 

been labouring to reach the present state of development for three 
thousand years. They do not ask the way, but confidently skim 
through the beginning, supposing that they know it all. They 
never ask what science is and what it is for, but demand that it 
yield them anything they choose to ask. Some vague presenti- 
ment tells them that philosophy is duty bound to solve all prob- 
lems, to soothe and conciliate, and they therefore demand the 
proofs for their convictions, for all sorts of hypotheses. They 
demand consolation in misfortune and God knows what not. 
The austere matter-of-fact and impersonal character of science 
astonishes them. They are disappointed, deceived in their ex- 
pectations: where they were seeking repose they iare compelled 
to work, and to work hard. Finding, therefore, that science no 
longer appeals to them, they seize its separate conclusions, 
senseless in the form and order chosen, put them in the pillory 
and flagellate science by proxy. Notice that every one of them 
regards himself a competent judge, for each is sure of his own 
intelligence and of his superiority over science even if he has 
read only its introduction. "In all spheres of science, art, skill, 
and handicraft," remarks one great thinker, "it is never doubted 
that, in order to master them, a considerable amount of trouble 
must be spent in learning and in being trained. As regards phi- 
losophy, on the contrary, there seems still an assumption prev- 
alent that, though everyone with eyes and fingers is not on 
that account in a position to make shoes if he only has leather 
and a last, yet everybody understands how to philosophize 

straightaway, and pass judgement on philosophy " To the 

lilettantes their personal convictions constitute conclusive judge* 
ment allowing of no appeal. Now whence these convictions? 
From their parents, their nurses, from school, from people good 
or bad, and from their feeble wits. "Everyone has his own 
mind what care I what others think!" they seem to say. But 
it takes a genius or a madman to say such a thing not of every- 
day trivialities but of science; and geniuses are rare, while the 
maxim is repeated frequently. Though I admit the possibility of 
a genius who could outdistance the ideas of his contemporaries 
(Copernicus, for example) in such a way that the truth would 
stand on his side contrary to general opinion, I have never 
heard of one who claimed that all people had their own manner 



DILETTANTISM IN SCIENCE 23 

of thinking, whereas he, for his part, had his own. The task 
of philosophy and civics is precisely to disclose the common 
workings of all minds. The entire edifice of humanity rests on 
the unity of minds; it is only in their primitive, petty and purely 
animal desires that people differ from one another. It should be 
remiarked, however, that maxims such as the above are plausi- 
ble only in philosophy and aesthetics: the objective importance 
of other fields of endeavour, be it even shoemaking, has been rec- 
ognized long ago. Everyone has his own philosophy and his 
own taste, they say. But it does not occur to these worthy people 
that this most definitely implies the denial of philosophy and 
aesthetics. For how can they exist if they depend on everyone 
and may be changed by all iand sundry? The difficulty is that 
science and art are neither visible to the eye nor perceptible to 
the tongue. The spirit is a Proteus. It is precisely what a man 
takes it for. It exists in so far as he comprehends it, and unless 
he does so it vanishes. Yet even if it should fail to exist for a 
man, it does exist for mankind, it does exist for the non-ego. 
With the naivete sui generis of his time, Hume, while reading a 
hypothesis of Buffon, remarked: 

"Surprisingly enough I am almost convinced of the authen- 
ticity of his words though he speaks about objects which the 
human eye cannot perceive." And so the spirit existed for Hume 
only in its embodiment. The nose, the mouth and the ears were 
his criteria of the truth. Is it surprising, therefore, that he denied 
causality? 

Other sciences are much more fortunate than philosophy: they 
have an object, impervious in space iand real in time. In natural 
science there can be no dallying as in philosophy. Nature is the 
realm of the visible law; it allows no violence upon itself; it 
presents such evidence and objections as cannot be denied: they 
are visible to the eye and audible to the ear. Those who study 
nature surrender their personality which is suppressed and ap- 
pears only in hypothesis, usually having nothing to do with 
objective research. 

In this respect the materialists are superior and may serve as 
an example to our dreaming dilettantes: the materialists have 
conceived the spirit as in nature and as nature alone. And yet 
they have bowed before its objectivity, in spite of the fact that 



2* A. HERZEN 

there is no real reconciliation; that is why there were such great 
men as Buffon, Cuvier, Laplace and others. 

What theory will a chemist not abandon, what personal con- 
viction will he not sacrifice if experiments show that he is mis- 
taken? It will never occur to him that the action of zinc could be 
erroneous, or that nitric acid could be an absurdity. And yet, 
experience is the poorest means of acquiring knowledge. He 
submits to the physical fact, whereas no one feels obliged to 
submit to facts derived from spirit and reason, no one, indeed, 
takes the trouble to understand them; nor does anyone regard 
them as facts. The dilettante approaches philosophy with his 
own little philosophy; all the dreams and whims of the ego- 
tistic imagination are gratified by this puny, tame, homespun 
philosophy. No wonder he is annoyed to see all his dreams fade 
before the rational realism of scientific philosophy! Personality 
vanishes in the realm of ideas, whereas revelling in self-love 
forces the individual to seek his own self everywhere as some- 
thing unique, as the particular ego. But in science the dilet- 
tantes find only the universal: reason, ideas mostly universal. 
Science has transcended individualities, casual and temporary 
personalities; it has left them so fiar behind that they have 
dwindled almost to nought in its sight. 

Science has entered the age of maturity and liberty. The weak 
tremble at the approach of this liberty; they are afraid to move 
a step without a mentor, without a dictum. No word of apprecia- 
tion can be expected from science, no one will pnaise or reward 
them. To them the void seems fearful; they grow giddy and go 
away. Breaking with science, they plead presentiments which, 
though never clear to them, cannot possibly be wrong. But feel- 
ing is an individual property. I may feel something and another 
may not and yet both may be right; no proofs are needed and 
they are indeed impossible. If there were only ia spark of love 
of truth in them they would never dare to make it run the Cau- 
dine Forks of feelings, fancies and whims. It is not the heart, 
but reason which is the judge of truth. And what judge shall 
judge reason? Only reason itself. This is an unsurpassable dif- 
ficulty for the dilettantes; approaching science they seek a yard- 
stick outside of it to measure it with. A well-known but absurd 



DILETTANTISM IN SCIENCE 26 

rule suits the case: before thinking it is necessary to examine 
the instruments of thinking by some external analysis. 

At the very outset science is interrogated by the dilettantes. 
They want to know beforehand the answers to its most difficult 
problems. They want a guarantee that they do know what the 
spirit and the absolute are, and they want the definition to be 
concise and clear, i.e., they must have the content of science in 
several maxims that would be an easy sort of science indeed! 
Imagine a man about to study mathematics and demanding in 
advance a clear exposition of differentiation and integration, 
and in his own lingo too. Such questions rarely come up in the 
specialized sciences: the fear of appearing ignorant keeps them 
in check. Not in philosophy: nobody stands on ceremony there! 
The subjects are all familiar the mind, reason, the idea, etc. 
Everyone has a colossal mind, enormous intellect and not just 
one idea, but many. I have here presupposed the dilettantes to 
have some vague notions about the results of philosophy, though 
one cannot guess what they mean exactly by the spirit, the 
absolute, etc. The bolder dilettantes go further however. They 
put questions which can have absolutely no answer, for the sim- 
ple reason that the questions themselves are absurd. To put a 
relevant question one must know something about the subject, 
must possess a bit of intuition and perspicacity. And when 
science replies with indulgent silence, or tries to show that the 
question is impossible, they accuse her of unsoundness and 
subterfuges. 

As an example, I shall cite a question often put by the dilet- 
tantes in different ways: u How did the invisible internal be- 
come the visible external and what had it been before the exist- 
ence of the external?" Science is not obliged to answer this, for 
it has never claimed that the two, the internal and the external, 
could be disunited so that the one could have real existence 
without the other. It stands to reason that in the abstract we 
can separate cause from effect, force from manifestation, the 
intrinsic from the extrinsic. But that is not what they want: they 
want to disengage the substance, the intrinsic, so that they 
should be able to contemplate it at leisure. They want it to 
have some sort of material existence, forgetting that the mate- 



26 A. HERZEN 

rial existence of the intrinsic is precisely the extrinsic; the in- 
trinsic without the extrinsic simply being indifferent nothing. 

Nichts ist drinnen, nichts ist draussen; 
Denn was innen, das ist aussen. 

Goethe* 

In a word, the external is the manifestation of the internal, 
the internal being the internal precisely because it has its ex- 
ternal. The internal without the external is but a defective pos- 
sibility, because it cannot manifest itself, the external without 
the internal being a meaningless form without content. The 
dilettantes are dissatisfied with such an explanation: they har- 
bour the idea that there is a mystery hidden in the internal, in- 
accessible to reason. Actually, the essence of the internal lies 
precisely in its manifestation-, otherwise, for what and for whom 
would this mysterious mystery exist? The infinite, the timeless 
relation between two -elements bearing one upon the other, 
changing into each other, so to speak, constitutes the life of the 
truth. The truth lives in this eternal interplay, in this eternal 
motion in which all that exists is involved: these are its in- 
halation and exhalation, its systole and diastole. And like all 
living organisms, the truth can live only as a whole entity. If 
one dissects it, its soul escapes, leaving nothing but dead, pu- 
trefying abstractions. But it is this live movement, this universal 
dialectical pulsation which meets with bitter opposition on the 
part of the dilettantes. They cannot admit that any sound truth 
could pass into its antithesis without becoming an absurdity. 

It is evident that the necessity of the eternal, subtle transi- 
tion of the internal into the external, so that the former be- 
comes the latter or vice versa, cannot be clearly and accurately 
explained outside of science; and the reasons why these conclu- 
sions cause indignation are quite obvious. Rationalistic theories 
have habituated people to the anatomic method to such a de- 
gree, that they regard only that which is motionless, dead, i.e., 
not real, as the truth. They cause thought to freeze, to stiffen in 
a one-sided definition, believing that it is easier to examine the 



* There is nothing inside, there is nothing outside; for what is internal 
is external. Ed. 



DILETTANTISM IN SCIENCE 27 

truth in this necrosis. In former days physiology was studied 
in the dissecting room and that is why the science of life lags 
so far behind the science of corpses. No sooner does one exam- 
ine one element than an invisible force brings up the oppo- 
site element: this is the first vital throb of thinking. The sub- 
stance involves manifestation, the infinite the finite: they are as 
necessary to one another as the poles of a magnet. But the in- 
credulous and cautious explorers wish to separate the poles. 
There can be no magnet, however, without opposite poles. As 
soon as they iapply the scalpel, demanding either the one or the 
other, the indivisible is halved and two dead abstractions re- 
main with curdled blood and motionless. They would do well 
to realize that the one or the other taken separately is a mere 
abstraction, just as the mathematician does when he separates 
the line from the surface and the surface from the solid but re- 
members that only the solid is real and that the line and sur- 
face are merely abstractions.* But they do nothing of the sort; 
they who do not realize and deny -the objectivity of reason, de- 
mand unwarranted objectivity, reality for their abstractions. 

It is time to recall the previously mentioned third condition 
for the understanding of science, the living spirit. 

It is only the living spirit which is open to live truths. It pos- 
sesses neither the empty shell of formalism wherein to stretch 
the truth as on a Procrustean bed, nor rigid, petrified dogmas 
from which it cannot deviate. These rigid dogmas constitute a 
mass of axioms and theorems preconceived by the dilettante 
when he approaches philosophy. With their help he concocts 
utterly disconnected notions and definitions on God knows 
what grounds. To begin acquiring knowledge, one must forget 



* In general, mathematics has renounced the dry either or. despite the 
fact that its subject is usually inanimate and formal. What is the differen- 
tial? An infinitesimal quantity, so it is either a specific quantity and there- 
fore a finite quantity, or has no quantity and therefore aquals zero. But Leib- 
nitz and Newton had broader points of view and accepted the co-existence of 
being and non-being, the initial movement of the appearance, the transition 
from nothing to something. The results of th* theory of infinitesimals are 
well known. Furthermore, the mathematicians are afraid neither of negative 
values, nor of incommensurability, nor of the infinitely great, nor of imag- 
inary roots And it is evident that all this collapses before the narrow- 
minded, rationalistic "either or." A.M. 



28 A. HER ZEN 

all these inconsistent and false conceptions; they are mislead- 
ing; the unknown is posited as the known. Leave death and 
destruction to the dead; all fixed spectres should be abandoned. 
The living spirit sympathizes with the living, its way is illum- 
inated by a sort of clairvoyance, it thrills upon entering its own 
element and soon grows familiar with it. 

Science, of course, possesses no such majestic propylaea as 
religion. The way to science, evidently, lies across the arid 
steppes and some people are discouraged: of losses there will be 
many, of gains none; we reach rarefied heights, a world of in- 
corporeal abstractions, its grave solemnity seeming austerely 
cold; every step carries us farther into the ethereal ocean; it be- 
comes frightfully vast, it is difficult to breathe and the prospects 
are dismal. The shores grow dim and vanish with the dreamy 
images dear to the heart; the soul is seized with terror: Las- 
date ogni speranza voi ch'entrate! Where to find a haven? All 
becomes rarefied, ethereal, volatilized. But soon a voice pro- 
claims in the words of Julius-Caesar: 'Tear not, it is me whom 
you are carrying!" It is the voice of the eternal spirit in the 
bosom of man. Roused in the instant of despair, it will serve as 
a guide in this ethereal world, its native land, the realms it has 
been longing for in music, marble and song. This is the Jenseits 
that it has been pining for in its narrow confines. A little far- 
ther and the real world will come in sight again, but it will no 
longer seem alien: the deed of ownership has been granted to 
us by science. The dreams conjured by overwrought imagina- 
tion, by means of which the spirit leapt to knowledge, have 
faded away. Reality on the other hand has grown clear. Our 
eyes can penetrate deeper and see that there is no mystery 
guarded by sphinxes and griffons, that the inner essence is ready 
to unfold to the daring. But it is precisely dreams to which 
the dilettantes cling most of all. They are not strong enough 
selflessly to endure the initial stage and reach the turning- 
point, where the pain of scepticism and privations is required 
with presentiments of assuaged thirst for knowledge. Aware 
that their cherished dreams and all their ideals are somehow 
unreal, they are ill at ease, incoherent, but continue to stay that 
way, are able to stay that way. But the man abreast of the 
times, the man endowed with a live spirit, cannot find gratifica- 



DILETTANTISM IN SCIENCE 29 

tion beyond science. Having suffered deeply from the futility of 
subjective convictions, having vainly knocked on all doors to 
quench his burning thirst for knowledge, worn out by scepticism 
and defrauded by life, reduced to nakedness, poverty and 
loneliness, he plunges into science. 

"How could he meekly bend under the yoke of someone else's 
authority?" asks the dilettante. 

But science demands no pledges and prescribes no principles 
to be taken for granted. And, indeed, what principles are there 
in science which could be prescribed? Its principles are its end 
in view, its final word, the sum of its endeavours, the things it 
is striving for and whose very development is its irrefutable 
proof. Now if one looks to the first page for the basic principles, 
one will find no scientific truth there precisely because this page 
comes first and the whole development follows after. Science 
begins with some general statement and not with its profession 
of faith. It does not say: "Admit this and that and I shall 
grant you the hidden truth. You shall have it if you be my 
slave." As regards the individual, science only directs the inner 
process of development, it implants in the individual what had 
been accomplished by the whole of mankind and brings him 
abreast of the times. Knowledge itself is a process of nature's 
self-concentnation and the development of the complete self- 
cognition of the cosmos. Through knowledge the universe comes 
to consciousness leaving behind the struggles of material 
being steeped in the immediate. Knowledge changes its fantas- 
tic revel in imagery into sober knowledge, to use Aristotle's ex- 
pression. But to reach this sobriety the labour of thirty centu- 
ries was needed. What grief, what suffering the human spirit 
has endured, what tears and blood it has shed before it could 
separate thinking from tall that was transient and one-sided 
and at last realize that it itself is the conscious essence of the 
worldl Humanity had to live through a great epic of history 
before the great poet, who outdistanced his age and anticipated 
ours, was able to demand: 

1st nicht der Kern der Natur 
Menschen itn Herzen? 

Goethe 



30 A. HER ZEN 

Of what alien authority are the dilettantes talking about? 
How can it be possible in science? The fact is that they conceive 
science not as a successive development of reason and self- 
knowledge, but as various experiments invented by various 
persons at various times, unrelated and without connection. 
They fail to realize that the truth is independent of the research- 
ers who are but agents in its development. They cannot at 
all comprehend its highly objective quality. It seems to them 
that it is all subjective and capricious. Science has its own au- 
tonomy and its own genesis. Being free, it does not rely on any 
authority; nor does it subject anyone to authority of any kind. 
It is a liberating force. But, after all, it has the right to demand 
in advance that it should be treated with sufficient trust and 
respect and should not be approached with ready-made, scep- 
tical and mystical objections on the score that they too have 
been voluntarily taken at their face value. Why and wherefore 
and on what grounds do the dilettantes fabricate stock-in-trade 
objections to science outside the sphere of science? Where does 
this inert mass which obstructs the light come from? In the 
mind free from prejudices science can only find support from 
the spirit which attests its merit and ability to evolve the truth. 
This gives rise to the audacity to know, that sacred daring to 
tear the veil from Isis and look upon the naked truth, be it at 
the cost of life and one's fondest hopes. 

But what truth is this, behind the veil? What indeed? Those 
who had so ardently desired it, had grieved and shed tears for 
it, now stole a glance behind the veil and were filled either 
with fear or indignation. Poor truth! Fortunately, the ancients 
had hewn the veil from marble iand it could not be lifted: the 
eyes of men were not strong enough to bear the light of its 
features. Or, perhaps it was not that truth they wanted? How 
many truths are there then? Good and reasonable people know 
many a truth, very many, but there is one which seems to elude 
them. An optical illusion seems to distort the truth for them, 
and in a different wiay for every man. If one could tabulate all 
the accusations constantly levelled against science, i.e., against 
the truth which reveals itself in a well-balanced organism, one 
could draw a just conclusion by applying the well-known meth- 
od used in astronomy for determining the real position of a 



DILETTANTISM IN SCIENCE 31 

luminary observed from different points, i.e., by calculating the 
opposite angles (the theory of parallaxes). Some people talk 
of atheism, others of pantheism; some plead that it is difficult, 
very difficult; others allege that there is void, simply nothing. 
The materialists smile at the dreamy idealism of science; the 
idealists find ingeniously hidden materialism in the analytic 
methods of science. The pietists are convinced that modern 
science is more irreligious than Erasmus, Voltaire, Holbach 
and their ilk and more pernicious than Voltairianism. Those 
who lare not religious reproach science of orthodoxy. And above 
all, everyone is discontented and insists that the veil be lowered 
again. Some are blinded by the light, some abashed by the sim- 
plicity, others are shocked by the nakedness of the truth and 
still others do not like its features because they are too earthly. 
And all are disappointed because it is not the truth they w&nted. 
What is done cannot be undone, events will not turn back. 
Once disrobed to reveal a torso of unparalleled beauty, the truth 
will not put on the veil of prudery again, aware as it is of the 
power, glory and loveliness of its nakedness. 

April 25, 1842 

n 

DILETTANTES ROMANTICISTS 

Let the dead bury their dead. 

THERE ARE problems with which no one is concerned any longer, 
not because they have been solved, but because everyone is 
tired of them; by tacit agreement they are considered to be ob- 
scure, out of date, devoid of interest, and nothing more is said 
about them. But from time to time it is useful to look through 
the files of these spuriously settled matters. In consecutive re- 
trospection we on every occasion see the past in a new light, 
every time discover some new aspect, and fully employ the ex- 
periences acquired in the interim to gain fresh comprehension. 
By understanding the past more fully we get ia clearer view 
of the present; delving more deeply into the past, we discover 
the meaning of the future; looking back, we go forward. Finally, 



32 A. HER ZEN 

it is also useful to air the old apparel in order to see how much 
of it has been worn out and what is still fit for wear. 

One such matter recently filed away until further notice, to 
use a legial term, was that of romanticism versus classicism, 
which made such a stir in the first quarter of our century and 
even in more recent times. The litigation of those who had risen 
from the grave sank with them into the grave for a second time, 
and now scarcely anything is said about the rights of ro- 
manticism and its fight against the classics, though many of its 
inveterate worshippers and implacable foes are still alive. 

And to think that this battle so noisily begun was blazing in 
all its glory not very long ago. Many were the talents in the 
field. Public opinion was aroused. The now stereotype terms 
"classic, romanticist" were then full of meaning. And sudden- 
ly there was complete silence. The fervour of the spectators was 
gone: they realized that both parties were fighting for the dead. 
The latter had well deserved elaborate funerals and ornate 
tombs, for they had left us a great legacy amassed by sweat, 
blood and hard work. But why fight over them? There is no task 
more thankless than battling for the dead. It is like fighting for 
a throne with no sovereign to occupy it, because the king is 
dead. When the combatants realized that they were no longer 
supported, their iardour promptly cooled. Only the stubborn and 
narrow-minded stayed on the battle-field, armed to the teeth 
and resembling the Bonapartists of today, who defend the 
rights of a shadow which is gigantic, but a shadow neverthe- 
less. 

This struggle seemed like an apparition come from the other 
world to witness the debut of the new world, to hand on its 
powers on behalf of its two predecessors, its father iand grand- 
father, and to learn that there is no place for the dead in the 
world of the living. Actual romanticism and classicism as two 
exclusive schools were the consequence of a strange state of 
mind which prevailed more than thirty years iago. When the 
nations had returned to normal conditions after the fifteen years 1 
turmoil at the beginning of our century and life had once more 
taken its ordinary course, it was realized at last how much had 
been lost and destroyed in the old order of things iand had not 
been replaced. There had been no time to be aware of this in the 



DILETTANTISM IN SCIENCE 83 

debacle of the revolution and the empire. Ennui and emptiness, 
despair and repentance, disillusions and disappointments, scep- 
ticism and hunger for faith filled all hearts and minds. Byron was 
the singer of that epoch, ia sombre, sceptical poet of denial and 
profoundly ajar with the world, a fallen angel, as Goethe called 
him. France, the principal scene of the upheaval, had suffered 
most. Religion was on the wane, political beliefs had vanished, 
all trends, even the most conflicting, were equally humiliated 
by the eclecticism of the first years of the restoration. To escape 
the dreariness of the present and seeking a way out every- 
where, France for the first time regarded the past with different 
eyes. The memory of mankind is somewhat like a purgatory: 
the past rises again, a spirit purified iand cleansed of everything 
dark and evil. When France saw the great shadow of the trans- 
formed Middle Ages with its tempting unity and faith, knightly 
valour and nobleness, a shadow cleansed of unrestrained tyr- 
anny, of overweening injustice, of universal contradictions 
somehow formally reconciled at that time, she, who had 
hitherto spurned everything feudal, abandoned herself toneo-ro- 
manticism. Chateaubriand, Walter Scott's novels, acquaintance 
with Germany and England fostered the spread of Gothic views 
on art and life. France was carried away by Gothism as she had 
previously been carried iaway by the ancient world, owing to 
her great susceptibility and vivacity, but never penetrating to 
the heart of things. Not everybody, however, succumbed to ro- 
manticism; the positive minds who drew upon the great works 
of Greece and Rome, the direct heirs of the literature of Louis 
XIV, of Voltaire and the Encyclopaedia, the participants in the 
revolution and the Napoleonic wars, one-sided iand stubbornly 
consistent, looked down scornfully on the younger generation 
which had rejected them in favour of conceptions which they 
had believed to have guillotined for all time. The romanticism 
fermenting in the young minds of France clasped hands with 
its counterpart across the Rhine, a romanticism which had 
reached its highest intensity at that time. There had always been 
something mystical, forcedly ecstatic in the Teutonic nature 
inclined to meditation and no less so to cabbala. This was the 
most fertile soil for romanticism and it was not slow to reach 
its fullest development there. Having prematurely and one- 
31157 



84 A. HER ZEN 

sidedly liberated the German minds, the Reformation led them 
inia poetic-scholastic and mystico-rationalistic direction, an im- 
portant deviation from the true path. Leibnitz remarked in his 
time that Germany would have difficulty in ridding herself of 
this trend which, let us add, has left its mark on the works of 
Leibnitz himself. The epoch -of forced classicism and Galloma- 
nia which swept over the national elements for a time could 
exert no lasting influence: this literature found no response 
among the people. God knows for whose benefit it spoke and 
whose ideas it expressed! More real and incomparably deeper 
was the influence exerted by the literary age ushered in by Les- 
sing. Mature and cosmopolitan, it strove to render the national 
elements into universally human. This was the great task of 
Herder, Kant, Schiller and Goethe. 

This problem, however, was solved in the sphere of art and 
science, the intellectual world being separated from public and 
family life by a Chinese wall. There was a Germany within Ger- 
many, the world of the siavants and the artists; and there was 
no real contact between the two worlds. The people could not 
understand their teachers. The greater part of the people had 
stayed where they had come to rest after the Thirty Years' War. 
The history of Germany from the Peace of Westphalia to the 
time of Napoleon can be read on one page, and, namely, on the 
one on which the exploits of Frederick II are recorded. In the 
end Napoleon's mighty blows brought forth the practical side 
of the Teutonic spirit neglected by Germany's reformers. Only 
then did the dormant passions, which had been at work within, 
raise their heads. There was a hoarse outcry, full of fanatical 
iand morose passion for the fatherland. Medieval views, some- 
what readjusted to suit our ways of life and masqueraded in 
knightly apparel, took possession of the minds. Once more 
mysticism was in vogue. The fires of persecution flashed again 
in the eyes of the peaceful burghers and the world which had 
actually passed through the Reformation now returned to Ca- 
tholic conceptions. The supreme romanticist Schlegel espoused 
Catholicism precisely because he was a Lutheran logical un- 
der the circumstances. 

For the time being it was Waterloo which decided who had 



DILETTANTISM IN SCIENCE 35 

cher, the romanticists. In the person of Napoleon, the Corsican 
and Emperor of the French, who represented the classical civi- 
lization and Latin Europe, the Teutons once agaip vanquished 
Rome; and once again they proclaimed the triumph of 
Gothic ideas. Romanticism was triumphant and classicism was 
hounded. Classicism was now associated with memories which 
everyone desired to forget, while romanticism, on the other 
hand, had unearthed the forgotten which everybody desired to 
recollect. Romanticism spoke incessantly, while classicism was 
silent; romanticism hurled itself upon everything like Don Qui- 
xote, classicism sat still, impassive and impressive as a Roman 
senator. But it was not dead like those Roman senators whom 
the Gauls had mistaken for corpses. In its rianks there were peo- 
ple of uncommon clay all those Benthams, Livingstones, The- 
nards, de Candolles, Berzeliuses, Laplaces, Says who did not at 
all look vanquished, and the gay songs of Beranger rang in the 
camp of the classicists. Showered with the curses of the roman- 
ticists they silently but emphatically replied now with steam- 
ships, now with railways, now with entire branches of science 
freshly evolved, such as geology, political economy and com- 
parative anatomy, now with an entire series of machines which 
saved the labour of man. The romanticists scorned these 
labours, humiliated every practical occupation as much as they 
could, found the imprint of damnation on the material tenden- 
cy of the age, and, ensconced upon their high belfries, failed to 
observe the romance of industrialization which was unfolding 
on so grand a scale in North America, for instance. 

While classicism and romanticism were fighting, the one con- 
verting the world to antiquity and the other to knighthood, some- 
thing powerful was arising and gaining strength, something 
which passed between the two of them and unnoticed by either 
for all its magnificence. Resting one elbow upon the classicists 
and the other upon the romanticists it stood head and shoulders 
above both as "he who hath power." Taking stock of the one 
and the other, it renounced both of them, for this new figure rep- 
resented the inner life, the living Psyche of our contemporary 
world. Born amid the lightning and thunder of the struggle 
raging between Catholicism and the Reformation and come of 
age amid the thunder of yet another struggle, she had no need 
8 



86 A. HERZEN 

for cast-off apparel; she had acquired her own. For a long time 
neither classicism nor romanticism suspected the existence of 
this third po,wer. At the outset the one side and the other mis- 
took her for an ally. (Thus, romanticism suffered under the de- 
lusion that Goethe, Schiller and Byron, let alone Walter Scott, 
were in its ranks.) At last, both classicism and romanticism had 
to admit that something stood between them, something not at 
all inclined to bolster either the one or the other. Without mak- 
ing peace between them, the two fell upon the newcomer. And 
this sealed their fate. 

Meditative romanticism came to hate the new trend for its 
real is ml 

The classicists, on the other hand, extended cautious feelers 
and came to despise the new trend for its idealism. 

True to the traditions of the ancient world, the classicists re- 
garded the warring ideologists with tolerance, with a sardonic 
smile and, preoccupied with diverse experiments and specialized 
subjects, rarely appeared in the controversy. In all fairness they 
should not be regarded as enemies of our epoch. They are most- 
ly utilitarians, practical people, and rejected the new trend as 
useless because the latter had but recently emerged from the 
school and its subjects seemed inapplicable, unfeasible in prac- 
tice and unnecessary. But the romanticists, loyal as ever to the 
feudal traditions and savagely intolerant, would not leave the 
arena. It was a fight to the death, desperate and vicious; they 
were ready to bring back the Inquisition and the stake to settle 
the dispute. The bitter realization that they were ignored, that 
their game was up, fanned the embers of persecuting zeal to a 
white heat. Nor have they resigned themselves to the situation 
even now. And for all that, every day and every hour shows ever 
clearer that mankind desires neither the classicists nor the 
romanticists but modern people iand regards all the others as 
guests in masquerade, every one of whom shall have to raise his 
mask at table and thereby reveal the familiar face under the 
grotesque and borrowed features. There are some, however, 
who will not sup in order to avoid lifting their mask; but masks 
such as theirs cannot even frighten children nowadays. The new 
conflict proved fatal to both sides: the unsoundness of classi- 
cism and the impossibility of romanticism stood fully exposed. 



DILETTANTISM IN SCIENCE 37 

Their unnatural and anachronistic characters were fully re- 
vealed and the best minds of the age kept aloof of this war of 
werewolves for all the ado that was raised by them. But there 
was a time when classicism and romanticism were alive, true 
and beautiful, were necessary and profoundly human. Those were 

the days "Was papacy beneficial or harmful?" the naive 

Las Cases asked Napoleon. "I really do not know," replied 
the ex-emperor, "it was beneficial and necessary in its day and 
harmful in another." Such is the destiny of everything manifest 
in time. Classicism iand romanticism belong to two great pasts. 
No matter what is done to resurrect them, they will remain the 
ghosts of the departed for whom there can be no place in the 
contemporary world. Just as classicism belongs to the ancient 
world, so romanticism belongs to the Middle Ages. Neither can 
claim to govern the present, because the present in no way re- 
sembles the ancient world or the Middle Ages. That is evident 
at a glance. 

The Greco-Roman world was essentially realistic. It revered 
nature and lived with it as one. It regarded existence as the 
supreme felicity. To the Greco-Roman world the truth was the 
cosmos beyond which there was nothing. And the cosmos was 
everything to this world precisely because its demands were 
limited. The ancient world attained to the spirit from nature 
and through nature and precisely for that reason did not attain 
to the absolute spirit. Nature is the existence of the idea in di- 
versity. Its unity, as the ancients conceived it, was necessity, 
fatum, the mysterious universal power irresistible to both Earth' 
and Olympus. Nature was subordinated to the laws of necessi- 
ty, the key to which existed in it but not for it. The cosmogony, 
of the Greeks began with chaos and developed into the Olympic 
federation of gods under the dictatorship of Zeus; republicans 
as they were, they did not attain to unity and willingly halted 
at republican rule in the universe. Anthropomorphism brought 
the gods very close to the people. Gifted with sublime, aesthetic 
perception, the Greek fully comprehended the expressiveness of 
the external, the mystery of form. The divine existed for him 
only as incorporated in human beauty. Through it nature was 
idolized by him and beyond that beauty he did not go. 



38 A. HER ZEN 

.Such an existence at one with nature was enchanting and 
carefree. People were satisfied with life. In no other age were the 
elements of the soul so artistically balanced. The further devel- 
opment of the spirit was inevitable, but it could not occur other- 
wise than at the expense of flesh, body, and form: it was a 
higher stage, but it had to sacrifice ancient harmony and grace. 
The life of the people in that flourishing age was free of care, 
happy and clear as nature itself. Vague ennui, morbid self- 
searching, and futile egotism were unknown to them. They suf- 
fered from real causes, shed tears over real bereavements. The 
ego of the individual was dissolved in his citizenship, a citizen 
being an organ, an atom of another sacrosanct personality, 
that of the city. It was not the ego of the individual that 
was revered, but the ego of Athens, of Sparta or Rome. Such 
was the essence of the free, broad views of the Greco-Roman 
world, humanely beautiful within their limits. But these views 
had to give way to other views just because they were limited. 
The ancient world placed the external on a par with the inter- 
nal, which is the case in nature, but not in the truth where the 
spirit dominates the form. The Greeks thought that they had 
sculptured everything contained in the human soul, but their 
chisels had failed to describe a residue of urges dormant and ias 
yet immature. The Greeks dissolved the personality in the uni- 
versal, the citizen in the city, the man in the citizen, but the 
personality had inalienable rights of its own and by the law of 
compensation the individual, accidental personalities of the 
emperors finally absorbed the City of Cities. The apotheosis of 
the Neros, the Claudiuses and their despotism was an ironic 
denial of one of the main principles of Hellenism and the Hel- 
lenic world. It was then that the time had come for its demise, 
and the birth of a new world. But the seeds sown by Greco-Ro- 
man life could not and should not perish for mankind. They ger- 
minated for fifteen centuries and the Teutonic world had ample 
time to strengthen its thinking and to (acquire the ability to ap- 
ply them in practice. In that span romanticism flowered and 
withered with its great truth and its great one-sidedness. 

The romantic views should be regarded neither as universal- 
ly Christian nor as purely Christian: they were nearly the ex- 
clusive properties of Catholicism. In them, as in everything 



DILETTANTISM IN SCIENCE 39 

Catholic, two principles were welded: the one was derived from 
the Gospel and the other from popular, temporal and essential- 
ly Germanic elements. Hazy and inclined to meditation and 
mysticism, Germanic fantasy found full play for its vast char- 
acter in the adoption and assimilation of Christianity, at the 
same time imparting to religion a national hue. Christianity, 
moreover, offered more than the romanticists could take and 
what they did take was taken one-sidedly and developed at the 
expense of other sides. The spirit which leapt heavenwards 
from the Gothic spires was quite contrary to that of the ancient 
world. The basis of romanticism was spiritualism, transcenden- 
tality. For it spirit and matter were not in a state of harmonious 
development, but conflicting and in dissonance. Nature was 
false, and everything natural was to be condemned. The spir- 
itual substance of man "blushed for the shadow cast by the 
body of man. 1 ** Having conceived itself a duality, life suffered 
from inner discord and sought conciliation in the rejection of 
one of the two conflicting principles. Having realized his in- 
finity, his superiority to nature, man sought to ignore nature. 
And individuality, erased in the ancient world, now attained in- 
finite rights; spiritual values were brought to light, unsuspected 
by the ancient world. The object of art was no longer beauty 
but spiritualization. The hearty laughter at the feast of Olym- 
pus was no more. The end of the world, the eternity of which 
had been the dogma of the classical world, was awaited by the 
hour. All this served to tinge the activities of man and his 
thinking with solemnity and melancholy. Yet, this melancholy 
had the irresistible charm of obscure, undefinable musical im- 
pulses and desires which plucked at the innermost chords of 
the soul. Romanticism was an exquisite rose which had grown 
at the foot of the cross it entwined, but its roots, like those of 
every plant, were fixed in the earth. And this romanticism did 
not choose to know. Fearing that they bore evidence of its 
baseness and unworthiness it sought to renounce its roots. Ro- 
manticism ever lamented the narrow confines of the human 
breast iand yet could never divorce itself from its heart and 
feelings. Constantly proffering itself for sacrifice romanticism 



* Dante, Ascension to Paradise. A.M. 



40 A. HERZEN 

demanded infinite remuneration. Idolizing subjectivity, roman- 
ticism yet anathematized it. And this very struggle of seem- 
ingly reconciled contradictions imparted to it an impulsive, 
powerful and ecstatic air. But if we forget the bright picture of 
the Middle Ages imprinted on our minds by the romantic 
school, we shall find in it horrible contradictions, reconciled for- 
mally, but rending one another ferociously. Believing as they 
did in divine redemption, they nevertheless regarded the con- 
temporary world and man as constantly at the mercy of the 
wrath of God. Arrogating unto themselves uncurtailed liberties, 
they yet deprived entire estates of human conditions of exist- 
ence. Their self-denial was egotism, their prayer was a selfish 
supplication, their soldiers were monks, their military chieftains, 
bishops; the women they idolized were kept like captives. Absti- 
nence from innocent pleasures was combined with riotous li- 
centiousness, blind obedience with unrestricted tyranny. Ev- 
eryone spoke of the spirit, of scorn for the flesh and the things 
of this earth; and yet, in no age was passion more rampant, 
and life more contradictory to prevailing convictions and cate- 
chisms, compromising with the conscience ias it did through 
formalism, subterfuges and self-deception, such as the purchas- 
ing of indulgences. That was an age of shameless and brazen 
lies. While recognizing the Pope as their spiritual shepherd ap- 
pointed by the Almighty, the temporal authorities humbled 
themselves before him but formally. They constantly avowed 
their devotion and at the same time sought to do him as much 
injury as they could. The Pope, the servant of God's servants, 
the humble shepherd, the spiritual father amassed riches and 
earthly power. There was something frenzied and feverish in 
such a life and mankind could not long remain in this unnatu- 
ral and tense condition. Real life, though spurned iand ignored, 
began to claim its own. No matter how they tried to turn from 
it, to fix their gaze on eternity, the voice of life spoke command- 
ingly and intimately. Both heart and mind responded. Soon it 
was joined by another strong voice: the classical world had 
risen from the dead; and the Latin people in whom the Roman 
spirit had never really perished, delightedly seized upon the 
ancient legacy. A trend entirely contrary to the spirit of the 
Middle Ages announced its existence in all spheres of human 



DILETTANTISM IN SCIENCE 41 

endeavour. There arose a tendency to renounce the past at all 
cost, there was a desire to breathe freely, to live well. Leading 
the reform, Germany proudly inscribed on its banners "the right 
to research," though actually she was far from recognizing this 
right. Germany bent all efforts to the struggle against Catholi- 
cism. There was, however, no consciously positive aim in this 
struggle. She prematurely outdistanced the classicism of the 
Latin people and precisely for that* reason was left behind aft- 
erwards. By renouncing Catholicism Germany severed her last 
tie with this world. The Catholic rites, at least, brought heaven 
to earth, while the bare Protestant church pointed only sky- 
wards. To gauge the influence exerted upon the Germans by the 
Reformation, suffice it to bring to mind their nature so 
inclined to mystery. After the Reformation the Germans lapsed 
into scholastic mysticism depriving man of all realism, a 
mysticism which was based on the literal misinterpretation of 
the sacred texts in a dozen ways and took the form of cold 
madness, evolved with terrible consistency by some, and erupt- 
ing through fanatical, unrestrained and oppressive ravings in 
others. 

In the midst of this the new world was being born and its 
breathing was perceptible everywhere. The St. Peter's Cathe- 
dral in Rome was a solemn landmark of mankind's renunciation 
of Gothic architecture. Bramante and Buonarotti preferred the 
eclectic style de la renaissance to the austere lancets of Goth- 
ism. That wsas but natural. From an aesthetic point of view, 
apart from history, Gothism is unquestionably a style superior 
to those of the renaissance, rococo and others which served as 
transitions from Gothism to what would be the true restora- 
tion of ancient architecture. But Gothism closely linked with 
the Catholicism of the Middle Ages, of Gregory VII, of knight- 
hood and feudal institutions, could not satisfy the nascent re- 
quirements of life. The new world clamoured for a fresh incar- 
nation, a brighter embodiment, one capable not only of aspira- 
tion, but of enjoyment, not only of overwhelming with its gran- 
deur, but also of soothing with its harmony. There was a re- 
turn to the ancient world. Its art aroused sympathy. Its coveted 
architecture was clear and fair as the face of youth, harmonious 
as "music in stone." But much had occurred since the great days 



42 A. HE HZ EN 

of Rome and Greece; the experience gained in the interim was 
firmly lodged in the minds and showed that neither the perip- 
teros of the Greeks nor the rotunda of the Romans could fully 
express the idea of the new age. It was then that the "P'antheon 
on Parthenon" was built and inexperienced hands, fearful of 
straight lines, marred the ancient simplicity with pilasters, pro- 
tuberances and projections. This upheaval in architecture was 
a step backward for art, but a step forward for mankind. Its 
timeliness was illustrated : n the whole of Europe. All rich cities 
built their own St. Peter's Cathedrals. Gothic churches were 
left unfinished in order that new churches might be erected in 
the style of the renaissance. Essentially Gothic, Germany re- 
mained true to her architectural style longer than the others, 
but put up few structures in that period: she was too sorely 
wounded and exhausted for this. There is no point in arguing 
against these common facts. One should try to understand 
them. Mankind cannot be crassly mistaken through entire 
epochs. The new architectural style in cathedrals marks the end 
of the Middle Ages and their outlook. Gothic architecture be- 
came impossible after St. Peter's: it became a thing of the past, 
an anachronism. 

The plastic arts, in turn, were being liberated. The Gothic 
church had made different demands upon the artists than St. 
Peter's. Byzantium had expressed one of the essential elements 
in Gothic painting. Its unnatural postures and colours, its aus- 
tere grandeur divorced from the world and everything earthly, 
its deliberate neglect of beauty and gnace amounted to an as- 
cetic denial of earthly beauty. The holy image was no picture: 
it was a vague delineation, a subtle suggestion. But the artistic 
nature of the Italians could not long keep within the confines 
of symbolic art. Developing it more and more, they passed from 
religious to pure art by the time of Leo X. The immortal types 
del divini maestri clothed the divine in supreme earthly beauty, 
their ideal being a man transfigured, but a human being none- 
theless. Raphael's Madonnas, the apotheosis of pure feminine 
beauty, were yet not abstract, supernatural beings, but real 
maidenhood transfigured. Risen to the highest ideal, the art of 
painting once more gained a firm footing on earth, from which 



DILETTANTISM IN SCIENCE 43 

it would no longer depart. The Byzantine artist had renounced 
the ancient ideal of earthly, human beauty. But Italian paint- 
ing, while developing that of Byzantium, at its highest stage 
renounced Byzantium and apparently returned to the ancient 
ideal. There had been a great stride, however: the orbs of the 
new ideal shone with a new light, the reflection of new and pro- 
found thought, and were unlike the open but unseeing eyes of 
the Greek statues. Reanimating art, the Italian's brush im- 
parted to it a new depth of spirit sprung from the word of God. 
Poetry was undergoing a revolution of its own. Within it, 
knighthood relinquished its solemn reverie and feudal hauteur. 
Playful and smiling, Ariosto told the story cf his Roland. Mali- 
ciously ironic, Cervantes exposed the untimeliness and impo- 
tence of knight errantry. Boccaccio portrayed the life of a 
Catholic priest; Rabelais with characteristic French audacity 
went further still. The Protestant world produced Shakespeare, 
a man of two worlds, who closed the door upon the romantic 
epoch of art and opened another. The genius with which he so 
fully revealed the inner life of man in all its depth, restlessness 
and infinity, the boldness with which he pursued life to its inner- 
most recesses and exposed what he had found there, was not of 
romanticism but transcended it. The main feature of romanti- 
cism was its yearning for something "far away," and inevitably 
it was saddened because "that which was yonder would never 
come hither. 1 ' It always strove to escape the heart, within which 
it could find no peace. To Shakespeare, on the other hand, the 
heart of man was a universe, the cosmology of which was 
vividly drawn by his mighty pen. In France and Italy at that 
time pseudo-classicism was growing and gaining in strength. In 
his work on architecture Palladio spoke of Gothism with scorn. 
Mediocre and lifeless imitations of the ancient writers were more 
highly valued than the songs and legends of the Middle Ages, 
so poetic and profound. The antique had an irresistible appeal 
for its humaneness and reconciliation in life and beauty; and it 
was from the antique that a new spirit arose, a spirit which 
affected science* and even politics. 



* We shall leave the upheaval in science to another chapter. Suffice it 
to mention Bacon, Descartes and Spinoza. A.M. 



44 . A. HER ZEN 

Meanwhile, the struggle between Catholicism and Protestant- 
ism continued. The former was rejuvenated in the contest, 
while the latter matured. But the new world belonged wholly 
to neither. At the very outset of this confused struggle there was 
a scientist who refused directly to join the one side or the other. 
He pleaded that he was occupied with the humanities and did 
not wish therefore to involve himself in the war between the 
Pope and Martin Luther. This learned humanist was Erasmus 
of Rotherdam, the same who smilingly wrote something de libe- 
ro et servo arbitrio, which made Luther tremble with rage and 
reply: "If anyone has wounded me to the heart, it was Erasmus 
and not the defenders of the Pope." Thanks to the initiative of 
Erasmus, the new, humane ideas flowed both through classicism 
and romanticism. From the Reformation thought derived enor- 
mous strength, but at the first opportunity it passed to the side 
of the classicists. From this, one might have deduced, though 
no one did, that such alternatives as classicism and romanti- 
cism are not inherent in, or essential to, new thought, that the 
latter is neither the one nor the other bat rather both the one 
and the other, this combination being not a mechanical mixture, 
but a chemical compound which within itself has eliminated 
the properties of its composite parts, just as the causes are elim- 
inated in the effect, or the premises are eliminated in the syl- 
logism. Who has not seen children wonderfully resembling both 
parents who did not in the least resemble each other. The new 
age was just such a child: it combined the elements of musing 
romanticism and plastic classicism, not separately evident, but 
indivisibly fused in their offspring. 

Romanticism and classicism were destined to find their graves 
in the new world not graves alone, however, but also im- 
mortality. Only that which is one-sided, false and transient 
can perish, but both were possessed of the truth, eternal, uni- 
versal, and all-human. Such things cannot die, but are handed 
on to the senior heirs of mankind. The eternal elements of clas- 
sicism and romanticism continue alive without compulsion. 
They belong to the two true and indispensable moments in the 
development of the human spirit in time. They constitute two 
phases, two outlooks of different epochs, each relatively true. 
Consciously or subconsciously everyone is a classicist or roman- 



DILETTANTISM IN SCIENCE 45 

ticist or, at least, was once the one or the other. Youth, the time 
of first love and inexperience is inclined to romanticism. The 
latter is beneficial at that time: it cleanses and ennobles the 
soul. Bestiality and grossness are consumed in its purifying 
flame. The soul is purged and takes wing in this bright and in- 
nocent world of dreams, soars to the heights, far above the 
trivial, the transient and the accidental. Those of bright intelli- 
gence rather than of sensitive heart are classicists owing to 
their inner make-up; just as those who are contemplative, 
dreamy and delicate rather than hard-thinking are sooner ro- 
manticists than classicists. All this, however, is very far 
from the existence of mutually exclusive schools of thought. 

Schiller and Goethe are shining examples of how the roman- 
tic and classical elements should be received in our age. Schil- 
ler, of course, was drawn to the romantic more than Goethe, but 
his greater sympathies lay with his age and his last, most 
mature works were purely humanistic (if one may give them 
such a title) and not romantic. Could there indeed have been 
anything in the classical world that was alien to Schiller, the 
man who translated Racine, Sophocles and Virgil? And could 
there indeed have been anything inaccessible to Goethe in the 
deepest recesses of romanticism? In these giants, the conflicting 
and contrary trends were welded by the fire of genius into con- 
ceptions of amazing completeness. The partisans of the warring 
camps, however, stayed where they were. Mankind has reached 
an age of such maturity that it is simply ridiculous to attempt to 
convert it to the one side or the other. And yet, after Napoleon, 
we have witnessed the advent of a vigorous neo-romantic school. 
For this there was sufficient cause. The tendencies of German 
science and art were growing increasingly universal and cosmo- 
politan. But this universality was purchased at the expense of 
vitality. The national spirit of the Germans had been phlegmatic 
and latent until the onslaughts of Napoleon. It was then, how- 
ever, that the Germans arose, fired with patriotic fervour. 
Goethe's songs with their all-human appeal then il! accorded 
with the fever in the blood of his countrymen. What patriotism 
did for Germany, apathy did for France, and each of the two 
opened a fold of the gate to romantiL'ism. Both the aroused 
feeling of popular pride and the suffocating atmosphere of in- 



46 A. HER ZEN 

difference, inclined the soul to that art which was full of faith 
and national sympathies. But since the sentiments which had 
called neo-romanticism into existence were purely transient, 
its ultimate fate could be easily foreseen. A closer examination 
of the nineteenth century will suffice to show that the lasting 
charm of romanticism was impossible. 

The peculiar character of the nineteenth ceniury wa-s indeed 
evident from its very beginning. It was marked by ihe climax 
of the Napoleonic era; it was greeted by the songs of Goethe 
and Schiller and the powerful ideas of Kant and Fichte. Re- 
plete as it was with memories of the last ten years, with fore- 
bodings and burning issues, it could not be gay-hearted as its 
predecessors had been. Singing its lullaby, Schiller foretold 
its tragic fate. 

Das Jahrhundert ist im Sturm geschieden, 
Und das neue off net sich mil Mord. 

The fossilized structures of centuries came crumbling down. 
The battle-fields of Jena and Wagram 9 gave rise to doubts as 
to the stability of the past and the reality and permanence of 
the present. Goethe once read in the French newspaper Afom- 
teur that the Confederation of the German States had ceased 
to exist. What scepticisms and criticisms were suggested by 
the ruins of temples hitherto believed to be eternal! Could the 
object of this remue-tnenage have been a return to romanticism? 
Nothing of the sort. Thinking people were spectators at the 
great drama of the transition from one era to another and it 
is significant that they rejected the fruit of deep and solemn 
thought which had hitherto grown from the tree of mankind's 
entire knowledge. 

The first to be heard all over Europo with that of Napoleon 
was the name of a great thinker. In the age of fierce controver- 
sy, of gory conflict, of bitter schism, this inspired thinker pro- 
claimed the reconciliation of the opposites as the basis of philo- 
sophy. He did not separate himself from the warring parties; he 
saw the process of life and development in struggle itself. It 
was in struggle that he saw the supreme identity which can- 
celled struggle. No sooner conceived and uttered by the poet- 
thinker, this idea, fraught with the deeper meaning of our 



DILETTANTISM IN SCIENCE 47 

epoch, was caught up and developed by the specula live dialec- 
tician in a consistent, harmonious and scientific manner. In 
May, 1812, while the reception-rooms of Napoleon in Dresden 
were thronged with royalty, Hegel's Logic was being printed in 
an obscure print-shop of Nuremberg. This event passed un- 
noticed in the light of the "declaration of the second war on 
Poland," an event which happened just at that time. But the 
seed was sown: these several signatures, in elaborate language 
and apparently intended for scholars, contained the !ruit of the 
whole of mankind's antecedent thought, the seed that was to 
grow to the proportions of a mighty oak The conditions for its 
growth were at hand, for it could not be otherwise. It was only 
necessary to evolve the formula, as the mathematicians would 
say, iand the tree of knowledge would rise tall, green and with 
rustling leaves, a cool shade, its fruits ripe and nutritious. That 
which had palpitated in the graceful images of Schiller's dra- 
mas, which had struggled for expression in Goethe's songs, now 
became clear and visible to all. The truth, as though bashful, 
had adorned itself in the mantle of scholasticism and never 
ventured from the abstract sphere of learning, but this mantle, 
which had been worn threadbare even in the Middle Ages, could 
no longer serve as a cover: so shining is the truth that a sin- 
gle rent in its garment will suffice to shed strong light upon an 
entire field. 

The best minds sympathized with the new trend of thought, 
but a greater part failed to understand it and ias pseudo-roman- 
ticism grew, it lured the young people and the dilettantes into 
its fold. The aged Goethe grieved over the aberrations of the 
new generation. He was saddened to see that not what is real- 
ly valuable in his works but something else was appreciated, 
that his meaning was misunderstood. Goethe had been essen- 
tially a realist, like Napoleon and the whole of our century; but 
the romanticist had no faculty for the understanding of realism. 
Byron too heaped scorn upon his fictitious friends. But the ma- 
jority favoured romanticism: and the tastes of the Middle Ages 
so contrary to the positive character of our age and its demands, 
were resurrected in dress and ornament. Everything, from the 
sleeves of evening gowns to men's hairdress, was affected by 
this influence. Just as a tragedy was no tragedy for the classi- 



48 A. HERZEN 

cists unless it had Greek or Roman heroes, just as the classi- 
cists incessantly lauded the inferior Falernian wine, while 
drinking good Bourgundy, so too romantic poetry must needs 
have the knights of old, no poem without copious bloodshed, 
naive pages and dreamy countesses, cross-bones and corpses, 
exaltation and ravings. The place of Falernian wine is taken by 
platonic love; themselves given to real loving, the romantic 
poets eulogize the platonic passions alone. Germany and 
France vied with each other in presenting mankind with romantic 
writings: Hugo and Werner the poet who affected madness 
and the madman who affected poetry stood perched on the 
peak of the Brocken as the two strongest representatives of 
their trend. Between the two there sprang up genuine talents, 
such as Novalis, Tieck, Uhland and others, who were, in turn, 
overrun by the cohorts of their followers. These writers so dis- 
torted romantic poetry, so eulogized their loves and their spir- 
itual urges that even the good romanticists grew boring and 
difficult to read. It is noteworthy that one of the principal dis- 
Seminators of romanticism was no romanticist at all. I mean 
Walter Scott. His is the vital and practical outlook of his coun- 
try. To recreate the life of an epoch does not yet mean to accept 
its one-sidedness. 

Be it as it may, romanticism exulted, imagining that it would 
last for ages. Proudly, it made overtures to new science and the 
latter often imitated its language. Romanticism conden- 
scendingly launched a philosophy of its own, but never attained 
to its clear exposition. Using the same words for 
different meanings, the romanticists and the philosophers 
palavered without end. The situation was most comical 
when both parties, after laborious and prolonged effort, came to 
realize that they had been talking at cross purposes. Some years 
were frittered away in these innocent occupations, in compos- 
ing songs in the fashion of the troubadours, in digging up tra- 
ditions and chronicles about the knights of old for the ballades, 
or just in hankering languorously, or in torments of love for 
maidens unknown. In the meantime, Goethe died, Byron died, 
Hegel died and Schelling grew old. On the face of it, romanti- 
cism had now to reign supreme. But with unerring intuition the 
masses decreed otherwise, since they ceased to sympathize 



DILETTANTISM IN SCIENCE 49 

with romanticism fifteen years ago. And the romanticists found 
themselves circumvented like Leonidas and his Spartans and 
like the latter resolved to fall in an heroic but hopeless fray. 
What it was that had alienated the public from them is quite 
another matter into which we do not intend to delve just now. 
We shall confine ourselves to a fact. Who cares about the roman- 
ticists now, who troubles with them, who knows them? And 
chilled by universal indifference, pallid and melancholy, the 
romanticists anathematize the age in which they live. They see 
the castles of their beloved dreams tumbling down, and the new 
generation trodding roughshod over the ruins, heedless of the 
romanticists and their tears. They are anguished to hear the joy- 
ous song of modern life, a song which is not theirs. Gnashing 
their teeth they watch the vain world preoccupied with material 
improvements, social questions and science. At times one is 
startled by the ferocious and reproachful stare from these 
corpses which still haunt the seething and fragrant realms of 
life, never dreaming that they are dead. May they rest in peace: 
it is not seeming that the dead should mingle with the living. 

Werden sie nicht schaden, 
So werden sie schrecken. 

May 9, 1842 

III 

THE DILETTANTES AND THE GUILD 
OF SCIENTISTS 

Such as ... welche alle Tone einer Musik 
mit durchgehort haben, an deren Sinn aber 
das Eine, die Hartnonie dieser Tone, nicht 
gekommen isl . . as Hegel remarked. 

(Gesch. der Phil.) 

THROUGHOUT the long history of mankind two opposing trends 
can be traced. The development of one of them conditions the 
origin of the other and, at the same time, engenders a struggle 
which must lead to the destruction of the former. No matter 
what corner of history we choose to examine we will find 
41157 



50 A. HER ZEN 

this process repeated in a series of transformations. Owing to 
the operation of one cause, people with some common ground 
between them, set themselves apart to gain a privileged posi- 
tion and establish a monopoly. Owing to the operation of an- 
other cause, the masses seek to absorb the isolated group, to take 
over the fruit of their labours, to assimilate this group and de- 
stroy its monopoly. Though in every country, in every age, in 
every sphere of life the struggle between the privileged and the 
masses is expressed differently, the guilds and castes are con- 
stantly formed anew, the masses are constantly undermining 
them and, strangest of all, the self-same masses who but yes- 
terday pilloried the guild, turn out to be the guildists of today, 
to be pilloried and assimilated, in turn, by the yet broader mass- 
es of tomorrow. This polarity is one of the features of the liv- 
ing development of mankind, somewhat resembling the phe- 
nomenon of pulsation from which it differs in that every beat 
means for mankind a step forward. 

It is in the guild that abstract thinking crystallizes this group 
of people gathered together by it and in its name is a necessary 
organ for its development. But no sooner has it reached ma- 
turity than the guild becomes pernicious to it: it strives for air 
and light like an embryo in its ninth month; it needs a broader 
environment. But the members of the caste, so useful to thought 
in its incipiency, lose their importance, fossilize, come to a 
standstill, jealously spurn what is new, afraid of relinquishing 
their golden fleece and determined to keep thought s'trictly to 
themselves. This is impossible, however. Thought is universal 
and radiant: it craves generalization, bursts through all crev- 
ices and slips between the fingers. The true consummation of 
thought is to be found not in the caste, but in mankind at large. 
It cannot limit itself to the narrow confines of the guild, knows 
nothing of conjugal fidelity: it proffers its embraces to everyone, 
it refuses to exist only for those who yearn for exclusive posses- 
sion. As the masses learn to embrace thought and to sympa- 
thize with it the guild must dwindle. Pity is out of place. It has 
done its work and can go. The object of isolation should be 
communion and reunion. People generally leave their homes 
to return with fresh acquisitions. Only vagrants leave their 
homes for ever. 



DILETTANTISM IN SCIENCE 51 

Such is the fate of all castes. It might be supposed that pour 
la bonne bouche the guild of mankind will embrace all the less- 
er guilds, 'but this will not occur very soon. As yet man is pre- 
pared to accept any title, but not the simple name of mian. 

Modern science is just entering that stage of maturity when 
it must make itself known to all, must yield itself to all. It feels 
cramped and bored in the auditoriums and conference halls. It 
struggles for freedom, desirous of contributing a decisive voice 
in the practical spheres of life. This desire, however, remains 
unfulfilled and science cannot participate las a living element 
in the precipitous current of practical life as long as it rests in 
the hands of the caste of the scientists: only those who belong 
to life can introduce it into life. 

A beginning has been made, something great has been set in 
motion and progresses, though slowly; science in the meantime 
is rounding out some abstract theories no less essential to it 
than its escape from them to real life. Science is to be born for 
the masses not as an infant, but fully accoutred like Pallas 
Athene sprung from the head of Jupiter. Before bearing fruit it 
must accomplish everything it has been called upon to accom- 
plish and be absolutely certain that it has done so: from this 
science is not far. People still regard it distrustfully, however, 
and this mistrust is a virtue in itself: an unerring though vague 
instinct tells them that science must contain the key to the 
gravest problems, but they see that the scientists are preoccu- 
pied mainly with empty disputes and lifeless problems land are 
strangers to human interests. They sense that science belongs 
to all, but see that it is not easily accessible, that it speaks a 
language difficult to comprehend. And so the people turn laway 
from science as the scientists turn away from the people. The 
fault, of course, should be sought not in science, nor in the peo- 
ple, but somewhere between the two. To reach the ordinary peo- 
ple a ray of science must penetrate such marshy mists and va- 
pours that it is stained with their grey colours and altogether un- 
like itself; yet by its light alone do men judge. The first step to- 
wards the liberation of science is the comprehension of the ob- 
stacles which stand in its way, the exposure of false friends who 
imagine that science can still be swaddled in the infant rai- 
ments of scholasticism or that it can lie immobile in the ban- 

4* 



62 A. HER ZEN 

dages of an Egyptian mummy. Those murky vapours envelop- 
ing science are crowded with friends of science who are in real- 
ity its worst enemies. Under the eaves of the temple of Athene 
they live like owls, hooting that they are the masters, whereas 
they are only menials, dawdlers. It is they who are responsible 
for all the reproaches, all the vituperations levelled against 
science. Superficial dilettantism and the narrow specialization 
of the scientists ex offtcio are the two banks of science which 
prevent the fertilizing waters of this Nile from overflowing. We 
have referred to dilettantism quite recently, but we do not be- 
lieve it superfluous to mention it again as the perfect antithesis 
of specialization. The contrast sometimes is more explicit than 
the mere similarity. 

Dilettantism is love of science coupled with complete absence 
of understanding. Its love is such that it spreads itself thinly 
over the sea of knowledge and cannot achieve intensity at any 
point. Its love is such that it feeds upon its own affection, at- 
taining nothing, never caring for anything, not even for recip- 
rocation. It is ia purely platonic, romantic affection which be- 
gets no offspring. Rapturously holding forth on the heights and 
weaknesses of science, the dilettantes scornfully leave all other 
talk to the vulgar. For all that, they are horribly afraid of ques- 
tions and surreptitiously betray science when pressed to the 
wall by logic. The dilettantes are the people of the frontispiece, 
the people who wiander all about the ingredients of knowledge 
of which not they, but others partake. If I remember aright, Ger- 
novic taught the King of England to play the violin The king 
was a dilettante, i.e., he was a lover of music, but could not 
play. One day he asked Gernovic to which class of violinists 
he, the king, belonged. "To the second," the artist replied. "And 
whom do you place in this class?" "Many, Your Majesty. As 
regards violin playing I divide mankind into three classes: the 
first, the most numerous one, consists of people who cannot 
play at all; the second, also rather numerous, consists of those 
who cannot really play, but are fond of playing incessantly; 
the third lare the few, the handful who really know music and 
sometimes play beautifully. Your Majesty has certairly passed 
from the first to the second class." Whether or not the king was 
pleased with this answer, I do not know, but nothing more fit- 



DILETTANTISM IN SCIENCE * 53 

ting could be said about dilettantism. As Gernovic so aptly 
remarked, it is precisely the second class which plays intermi- 
nably; it is ia sort of disease preying upon the dilettantes, a 
madness from excess of amorous passion. 

Dilettantism is nothing new. Nero was a dilettante in music, 
Henry VIII, a dilettante in theology. The dilettantes assume the 
colouring of their age. In the eighteenth century, they were gay, 
boisterous, and called themselves esprit fort; in the nineteenth 
century the dilettante is sunk in melancholy and mysterious 
brooding, he is now enamoured of science, but aware of its per- 
fidy, he has become a bit of ia mystic, reads Swedenborg; but he 
is also a bit of a sceptic and peeps into Byron; with Hamlet he 
often repeats: "There are more things in heaven and earth, 
Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy," yet smugly he 
is certain that he knows it all. Finally, a dilettante is the most 
harmless and useless of mortals. He leads a meek and gentle 
existence, haranguing the wise men of all ages and neglecting 
the grosser business of living. God knows what the subject of 
his discourses is! This is not clear to the dilettantes them- 
selves, but they are so snug in this cosy indistinctness. 

The caste of scientists (die Fachgelehrten) , the scientists by 
virtue of rank, diploma and sense of dignity, is the antithesis 
of the dilettante. The principal shortcoming of this caste is 
that it is a caste, the second shortcoming is the "specialism" 
in which the scientists are usually lost. To define in brief the 
relation between the caste of scientists and science, we should 
recall that such a caste developed more fully in China than else- 
where. China is regarded by many as a prosperous, patriarchal 
empire. That well may be. There lare hosts of scientists there 
who have enjoyed privileges in the civil service since time 

immemorial. But of science there is not a trace "But they 

have a science of their own," it may be objected. We shall not 
contest this, but we have referred to the science which belongs 
to humanity at large, and not exclusively to China, Japan and 
other learned states. In Russia too, when a boy is apprenticed 
to a smith or joiner he is said to be bound over to science: and 
so one ought to suppose that they also have their own science. 
It must be admitted, however, that true science too was once of 
an age, long since gone, when the scientific caste was a neces- 



64 A. HER ZEN 

sity in the tage of its immaturity, when science was denied its 
rights and was itself subjugated to authority. It was thus the 
caste of the -scientists, the people of knowledge, who, surround- 
ed by crude and primitive notions, cherished and preserved the 
legacy of the ancient world, the memorials of the past, and the 
ideas of their own epoch all through the Middle Ages right up 
to the seventeenth century. They w r orked in seclusion, fearful 
of being harassed and persecuted, waiting patiently for the time 
when fame would shine upon their hidden achievements. The 
scientists then practised science as a mystery and found expres- 
sion in occult language purposely disguising their thoughts, 
for fear of gross misinterpretation. In those days it was indeed 
valiant to belong to the Levites of science. The calling of sci- 
ence then more often led to the stake than to the academy. And 
yet they persevered, inspired by the truth. Giordano Bruno was 
a scientist and Galileo was a scientist too. At that time, the 
scientists as a class were very much in place; the greatest issues 
of the epoch were discussed in the auditoriums; the scope of 
their interests was immense. And it was the scientists who 
stood first haloed in the early glory of dawning reason, like the 
tallest and proudest of the oak tops ablaze on the mountain 
ridges. 

But everything has changed nowadays; no one persecutes the 
scientist today and public consciousness has risen to the appre- 
ciation of science, to an urge for science and therefore rightly 
protests against the monopoly exercised by the scientists. This 
jealous caste, however, is determined to keep the light to itself. 
It has surrounded science with a forest of scholasticism, of 
barbarous terminology, ponderous and discouraging language. 
Similarly, the farmer surrounds his crops with hostile thickets 
ever ready to prick the thieving hand land tear the clothing of 
the intruder to shreds. But in vain. The time of the aristocracy 
of knowledge has passed. Apart from all other agencies, the in- 
vention of the printing press alone dealt a decisive blow to 
the seclusion of knowledge, rendering it accessible to all who 
are eager to learn. Finally, the last possibility of keeping science 
within the guild lay in the development of its purely theoret- 
ical aspects not always within reach of the layman. But mod- 
ern science has other pretensions, apart from theoretical ab- 



DILETTANTISM IN SCIENCE 65 

stnactions: as though forgetful of its -dignity it is striving to de- 
scend from its throne into the thick of life; and that this cannot 
be prevented by the scientists is beyond all doubt. 

The scientific caste of our times was formed after the Refor- 
mation and more so within the period of the Reformation itself. 
We have already mentioned the scientific corporations of the 
Middle Ages and the Gatholic world. These should not be con- 
fused with the new scientific caste reared in Germany in the 
last centuries. It is true that the old learned caste enslaved the 
minds of its day, but one should not forget, first of all, the state 
of men's minds of that day, and, secondly, that those who im- 
posed the yoke were themselves chafed by a heavy yoke. There 
was something unfinished about everything which grew out 
of the Reformation. There was insufficient courage to follow up 
the ultimate consequences, insufficient heroism in logic: they of- 
ten vehemently proclaimed a principle and timidly renounced 
the natural consequences. An edifice was frequently rent asun- 
der and its debris reverently preserved. It often happened that 
what existed could neither be piously revered nor boldly re- 
nounced. The thinking of the Reformation originated somewhat 
prematurely and that is why it fell behind and was circumvent- 
ed. The caste of scientists, formed in the world .of the Reforma- 
tion, never had the strength to establish a corporation, compact- 
ly self-sufficient and firmly in control of its boundaries, nor to 
dissolve into the masses. It has never had the energy either to 
cling to the existing order or to rebel against it. For that rea- 
son it has come to be regarded suspiciously, as a stranger. For 
the same reason it has come to shun the living issues and to 
concern itself narrowly with those which are dead. The ties 
linking the caste with society were bound to grow weaker and 
the direct consequence were mutual misunderstanding '.and in- 
difference. 

A poetic providence pointed to the word humaniora, a beauti- 
ful, prophetic word. But there was nothing human in the hu- 
maniora of the scientists. The word was relegated exclusively 
to philology, as though in irony, as though they themselves re- 
alized that the tancient world was more human tthan they. The 
stunted tree of the scientific guild grew out of pedantry, seclu- 
sion from life, petty distractions, and futile pursuits leading no- 



56 A. HERZEN 

where some phantom endeavour, busy idleness as well as 
out of artificial conceptions, inapplicable theories, practical in- 
experience and arrogant conceit. It would, however, be ungrate- 
ful to deny that the learned men have contributed very much 
to science; but not at all because they strove to form a caste. 
On the contrary, it was only the individual efforts which proved 
truly useful. 

Born in struggle and controversy, to replace the science of 
Catholicism, the new science required a fresh foundation, more 
positive, more factual; but it had no material, no supply of ex- 
perimental data and observations; the army of facts was not 
strong enough as yet. The scientists apportioned the field of 
science and scattered over it. Theirs was the painful task def ri- 
cher le terrain and in these labours, their chief contribution, 
they lost the broad view and became handicraftsmen who still 
imagined that they were prophets. It was by the sweat of their 
brow, by the arduous toil of whole generations that genuine 
science arose, but, as always happens, the toilers are the last to 
benefit from the results of their efforts. 

The opposing natures of the Latin and the Teutonic charac- 
ters could not but affect the newly formed class of scientists. 
The French are more observers and materialists and the Ger- 
mans more scholastics and formalists. The former are more en- 
gaged with natural science, with the applied branches of sci- 
ence -and are fine mathematicians too. The latter occupy them- 
selves with philology, with inapplicable branches of science and 
are subtle theologians to boot. In science the former seek practi- 
cal use and the latter, poetic uselessncss. The French are more 
the specialists, but less of a caste, while the Germans are the 
other way round j The scientists in Germany resemble a caste 
of Egyptian priests: they constitute a special race which con- 
trols public education, social thought, medicine, learning and 
so on. To all the other good Germans at large it is left only to 
eat well, drink and subir medical treatment, education and 
thinking from those entitled to those prerogatives by virtue of 
their diplomas. In France, on the other hand, the scientists are 
not so prominent and consequently wield less influence than 
their German colleagues. In France they aim mere or less at 
practical improvements and this in itself is a broad path to life. 



DILETTANTISM IN SCIENCE 57 

If, in all fairness, they can be reproached for their narrow spe- 
cialization more than *he Germans, they certainly cannot be re- 
proached for uselessness. It is France who leads in the popular- 
ization of science. How ingeniously she was able, a century 
ago, to clothe her outlook (such as it was) in a popular, topical 
form accessible to everybody and permeated with life! The 
Frenchman cannot be content with the abstract alone: he re- 
quires the friendliness of the drawing-room and the square, the 
songs of Beranger and the pages of his newspaper. No need to 
worry about him: he will not remain within his caste very long. 

Not so the German guild scientists. Their principal feature is 
the rampart that separates them from life. Like the ianchorites 
of the Middle Ages, they live in a world of their own, a world 
with its own customs and interests: theology, the ancient writ- 
ers, the Hebrew language, interpretations of obscure places in 
manuscripts, disconnected experiments, and observations with- 
out a general object in view; such are their concerns. Whenever 
they do happen to deal with realities they must needs pigeon- 
hole them with other categories; and the wildest monstrosities 
result. 

The academic world in Germany is a state (apart, one which 
has nothing to do with Germany. And indeed, it could borrow 
but little from life after the Thirty Years' War. The antagonism 
has been mutual. Vegetating in their endless preoccupation 
with scholastic subjects they have grown into a stratum sharply 
distinct and alone. Beyond the academy walls life has been dull 
and sluggish, not at all attractive. In its philistine drabness 
life has been as depressing and intolerable as the scholastic 
world itself. But divorced though they are from life, the scien- 
tists recall the stentorian voices of their predecessors who once 
weighed problems of the gravest importance at the universities 
of the Middle Ages; and similarly, they take upon themselves 
to judge high-handedly all scientific and artistic controversies. 
They who once undermined the castes of the Catholic spiritual 
shepherds in the name of the universal right to research, now 
show a tendency to establish their own guild of secular shep- 
herds. But lacking the fervour of the Catholic* propagandists on 
the one hand, and the ignorance of the masses on the other, 
they have failed. The new caste of manherds was not destined 



58 A. HERZEN 

to appear. It has become more difficult to herd people who not 
only regard the masters of science as their equals, as ordinary 
mortals, but even as people who have failed to attain the ful- 
ness of life and are only eking out an existence in one of its 
nooks. 

Science is a table abundantly laid for every man whose hun- 
ger is great enough, whose craving for spiritual nourishment 
has grown sufficiently insistent. The striving for truth, for 
knowledge does not exclude activity in particular spheres of 
life: it does not prevent la man from becoming a chemist, a phy- 
sician, an actor or a merchant; and it should by no means be 
supposed that a specialized scientist has more right to the truth. 
He only claims he does. Why should a person who spends his 
life in a monotonous and one-sided study of some special sub- 
ject have clearer views and more profound ideas than another 
who has tasted of realities and rubbed shoulders with thousands 
of diverse people? On the contrary; no matter what the guild 
scientist does outside his special subject, he does it awkwardly. 
He is superfluous in the solution of any living issue. He is 
the last to suspect the great importance of science; he 
does not see the wood for the trees, the trees of his 
particular field within which he supposes science to be confined. 
In extreme cases, the guild scientists are to society as the sec- 
ond stomach is to a ruminant; no fresh food ever reaches 
them, only that which has been chewed over and over and which 
is masticated for the pleasure of it alone. It is the masses who 
are active, who sacrifice their blood and labour; and only then 
comes the scientist to discuss the matter. The poets and the art- 
ists create and the masses are enraptured by their creations. 
But then comes the scientist to write the commentaries and 
the analyses, grammatical and otherwise. All that is very use- 
ful, but the injustice lies in their overweening conceit that they 
stand head and shoulders above us, that they are the high 
priests of Palas Athene, her lovers, or worse yet, her husbands. 
On the other hand it would be queerer still if they were told 
that the learned cannot know the truth, that they are excluded. 
The spirit impelling man towards the truth makes no excep- 
tions. Not all scientists belong to the guild. Overcoming the 
habits of didacticism, many a genuine savant acquires tan educa- 



DILETTANTISM IN SCIENCE 69 

//on* and emerges from the guild to serve humanity at large. 
The hopeless guild scientists are those grimly determined spe- 
cialists and scholastics at whom Jean Paul 10 hinted when he 
remarked: 'The culinary art will one day develop to the point 
when he who fries trout will be utterly unable to fry carp." It 
is these fryers of trout and carp who form the bulk of the scien- 
tific caste which begets countless lexicons, tables, observations, 
and everything requiring infinite patience and a soul that is 
dead. It is difficult to convert them into people. They are the 
extremes of a lop-sided scientific development. Not only are 
they destined to go to the grave one-sided as they are, but serve 
as cumbersome impediments in the path of every great im- 
provement, not because they are against science or progress, 
but because they can recognize improvement only when it has 
run the gauntlet of conventional forms and procedure or of 
such procedures as they have worked out personally. They 
know only the one method, the anatomic method: to study an 
organism they must perform ian autopsy. Who killed the doc- 
trine of Leibnitz ? Who imparted to it the cadaverous aspect of 
scholasticism, if not the learned prosecutors? Who was it that 
tried to turn Hegel's living, all-embracing teaching into a scho- 
lastic lifeless skeleton ? None other than the professors of 
Berlin! 11 

The Greeks who were well able to develop the personality to 
great heights of artistic and human perfection in the best of 
their time knew little about scientists in our sense of the word. 
Their thinkers, poets, historians were citizens above all, were 
people who belonged to life, to the civic council, to the square, 
to the bivouac. Hence the versatile development, perfectly bal- 
anced and harmonious of such great personalities in science 
and art as Socrates, Plato, Aeschylus, Xenophon and others. 
But our scientists? How many German professors in the great 
days of the Napoleonic drama continued coolly to deliver their 
scholastic frothings and altogether unperturbed searched the 
map for Auerstedt and Wagnam with the same pedantic curiosity 



* The word of course is used in its true sense and not in the sense in 
which it is employed by the mayor's wife in the play Inspector-General by 
N. Gogol.- A.H. 



t)U A. HER ZEN 

with which they would have traced the travels of Odysseus 
when reading Homer. It was Fichte alone, inspired and pro- 
found as ever, who proclaimed his native land in danger and 

for a time discarded his books. 12 As for Goethe Better read 

his correspondence of that time. He, of course, stood incompa- 
rably higher than the lop-sided school. To this day we regard 
his majestic and formidable shadow with deep astonishment, 
as though it were the Luxor obelisk, a mighty monument of 
another epoch, tremendous, but not our own.* The scientist** 
of our day has so far departed from his epoch, has so sadly 
withered and shrunken in all ways that almost superhuman 
efforts are required to fit him into a living chain as a living link. 
To a truly educated man nothing that is human can be alien: 
he is in sympathy with all that surrounds him. Not so the 
scientist: to him everything that is human is alien except the 
subject that he has chosen, however limited. When the educated 
man thinks, he does so on free impulse, by virtue of the noble- 
ness of human nature, and his thoughts are free and open. 
When the scientist thinks, he does so out of duty, owing to his 
pledge and for that reason there is something fabricated about 
it and sanctioned by convention. The scientist is duty bound to 
be wise in his subject while the educated man is obliged to be 
intelligent in everything. He may or may not know Latin, while 
the scientist must needs know Latin very well. Now please do 
not smile at this: here too I see the traces of the fossilized caste. 
There are great poems, great works of world importance 
immortal songs handed on from age to age, songs which every 
more or less educated man has read, known, iand made part of 
himself. But the guild scientist has probably never read them 
unless they have a direct bearing on his subject. What is Ham- 
let to a chemist? What is Don Juan to a physicist? Another, 
still stranger phenomenon is to be found among the German 



* It was said in some pamphlet or other published in Germany: "In 
1832, in that memorable year when the last of the Mohicans of our great 
literature died." A.H. 

** We deem it necessary to emphasize again that this pertains to the 
guild scientists alone and that all that has been said is justified only in the 
antithetic sense; a true scientist will always be simply a human being and 
mankind will always respect him. A.H. 



DILETTANTISM IN SCIENCE 61 

scientists: some of them read everything, but understand only 
that which pertains to their specific subjects. Otherwise they 
are amazing for their prodigious store of knowledge associated 
with perfect obtuseness, sometimes reminiscent of childish sim- 
plicity: "They have listened to all the sounds but perceived no 
harmony," as the epigraph says. The degree of guild learned- 
ness is determined by memory and zeal. The man who has mem- 
orized the greatest stock of superfluous data on any given 
subject, who is cold of heart and whose passions are gratified 
by books alone, who for twenty years has had the patience to 
con the particulars and the trivialities pertaining to any given 
subject, is considered to be the most learned. No doubt the gen- 
tleman who was brought to Prince Potyomkin because he had 
memorized the almanac was a scientist and more so than an 
ordinary scientist. He had in fact invented his own branch of 
science. 

The scientists write only for the benefit of scientists. It is the 
educated who write for society. The greater part of those who 
wrote books, who exerted immense influence, who stirred and 
impelled the masses were not scientists at all: Byron, Walter 
Scott, Rousseau. Whenever a gigantic mind from the world of 
science did fight his way into life, he was at once denounced 
as a prodigal, as an apostate. Copernicus could not be forgiven 
for his genius; Columbus was ridiculed, Hegel was accused of 
ignorance. 

The writing of the scientist is fearfully arduous. There is on- 
ly one thing still more arduous, more laborious to read their 
doctes ecrits* But then no one cares to undertake this labour. 
Their folios are purchased by the scientific societies, the acade- 
mies and libraries. The curious from time to time refer to them, 
but no one reads them from cover to cover. A conference of the 
scientists of an academy would much resemble a gathering of 
our old-Russian reed-players of whom each knows and plays 
but one tune all his life. All that they would lack would be the 
band leader and ensemble (while science is an ensemble). 
Such a conference would resemble the reed-players arguing 



* Speaking of the gigantic task of reading some German book of learn- 
ing, Hegel added that it had probably been easier to write it. A.M. 



62 A. HERZEN 

among themselves about the superiority of their respective tunes 
and tones and striving to prove their points by piping full blast. 
It would never occur to them that music will ensue only when 
the separate sounds are absorbed by the swelling harmony of 
the whole. 

There is a noteworthy difference between the scientists and 
the dilettantes. The latter are fond of science, but decline to 
occupy themselves with it. They float about in the blue haze hov- 
ering over science, a haze which turns out to be as empty as 
the azure depths of earthly atmosphere. To the scientists sci- 
ence is a corvee by which they are duty bound to till a prescribed 
furrow; and, preoccupied as they are with the irregularities in 
the terrain, they have no time to view the entire field. The dilet- 
tantes are accustomed to look at things through a telescope, 
and so they only see objects as far removed ias the moon, but 
they can see nothing that is near or earthly. The scientists, on 
the other hand, scrutinize things through a microscope and 
for the same reason cannot see anything sizable. To be noticed 
by them, a thing must be invisible to the naked eye. They are 
incapable of discerning a clear stream, but only a minute drop 
filled with tiny monstrosities. The dilettantes admire science 
as we admire Saturn at a respectable distance and satisfied 
with the knowledge that it shines and has a ring. The scientists, 
on the other hand, have approached the walls of science so 
closely that they can see neither the walls nor anything but the 
bricks against which their noses are pressed. The dilettantes 
are tourists in the realms of science and like all tourists they 
know the country through which they travel only from casual 
remarks, all sorts of nonsense, newspaper slander, fashionable 
gossip, court intrigues. The scientists are like factory workmen 
and, like most workmen, have no mental latitude. This does not 
prevent them from being past masters of their crafts, outside of 
which they are fit for nothing. Every dilettante is occupied with 
all that is scibite and, over land above it, with that which is 
unknowable, i.e., mysticism, magnetism, physiognomy, home- 
opathy, hydropathy, etc. The scientist, on the contrary, conse- 
crates himself to one chapter, to one separate branch of some 
special science beyond which he knows nothing and refuses to 
know anything. Such preoccupation is sometimes valuable in 



DILETTANTISM IN SCIENCE 63 

that it furnishes facts for genuine science. Needless to siay the 
dilettantes bring benefit to no one. 

There are many who believe that the self-sacrifice displayed 
by the scientist in withdrawing from the world, in secluding 
himself in his study, in devotion to dull and monotonous work 
for the sake of science deserves the gratitude of society. But it 
seems to me that labour is its own reward. Without going into 
this any further, however, I should like to tell an old anecdote: 

There was once a good Frenchman who made a wax model 
of a block of houses in Paris in the finest detail. Finished with 
this work of many years he presented it to the Convention of 
the Republic, the One and Indivisible. As is known, the Conven- 
tion was of a severe and eccentric temper. At first it said noth- 
ing; it had enough troubles tapart from such trifles 
as wax models: for example, it had to form several armies, to 
feed the starving people of Piaris, to defend itself against the 
coalition, etc. But finally the turn of the wax model arrived and 
the Convention reached a decision: "Citizen so-and-so, whose 
work we cannot but admit to be finished and perfect, is to be 
imprisoned for six months for having occupied himself with a 
useless thing when his country was in danger." The Convention 
was right in a sense, but the trouble was that it regarded every- 
thing from one point of view, lan unpleasant point of view, at 
that. It never occurred to them that a man capable of devoting 
years, and such years, to a wiax model could not be put to any 
other use. It seems to me that such a man should neither be re- 
warded nor punished. This applies perfectly to the scientific spe- 
cialists: they deserve neither scolding nor praise, their pursuits 
are no worse and certainly no better than the pursuits of the 
ordinary run of man. It is a curious injustice that the scientist 
is ranked higher than the ordinary citizen and is relieved of all 
public burdens just because he is a scientist. For this alone he 
is more than glad for the comfort of his study and dressing- 
gown and happy to leave all worries to others. There is no 
valid reason to place a man in a privileged position just be- 
cause he has a mania for stones, or medals, or sea shells, or the 
Greek language. In point of fact, the scientists pampered by 
society have sunk into an antediluvian state. Nowadays every- 
one knows that there is no useful occupation with which a 



64 A. HER ZEN 

scientist may be trusted. He is an eternal adolescent among 
grown-ups. It is only in his laboratory or museum that he is 
not ridiculous. He has lost even the most elementary marks 
which distinguish mian from the animal sociability. He is shy 
and embarrassed in the presence of people. He has lost the hab- 
it of natural language. He trembles in the face of danger. He 
does not know how to dress. There is something wild and pathet- 
ic about him. The scientist is a perverse Hottentot just as 
Khlestakov* was a perverse general. Such is the stigma with 
which Nemesis marks the man who attempts to stand above so- 
ciety undeservedly. The scientists demand that we admit their 
superiority, that mankind be grateful to them; they imagine 
themselves to stand in its vanguard. That will never be. Scien- 
tists are bureaucrats in the service of an idea. They iare the bu- 
reaucracy of science, its junior clerks, senior clerks and super- 
intendents. Just as officials do not belong to the aristocracy, so 
the scientists cannot regard themselves as belonging to the 
foremost phalanx of mankind, to the first to be illuminated by 
the dawning light and the first to be struck down by the tem- 
pest.. A scientist, of course, may be found in this phalanx just 
as readily as a soldier, an artist, a woman, or ta merchant, but 
such a man is selected not by virtue of his degree, but because 
he carries the divine spark. Such a man is not a member of the 
scientific class, but simply belongs to that set of educated 
people who have grown equal to a living comprehension of 
mankind and the contemporary age. This set, varying in its 
numbers in accordance with the degree of their respective coun- 
try's enlightenment, is a mighty, living medium which absorbs 
the life-giving fluids through different fibres and transforms 
them into the beautiful corolla. Through it, the present passing 
into the future is unfolded in all its beauty and fragrance in 
order that the present might be enjoyed. To avoid misunder- 
standingthis aristocracy is not exclusive. Like Thebes it has 
a hundred broad gates ever open, ever welcome. 

Anyone may enter here, but a scientist with more difficulty 
than anyone. The thing that obstructs him is his diploma, an 



* A character from N. Gogol's play, Inspector-General. He was mistaken 
for a high official in a small town. Tr. 



DILETTANTISM IN SCIENCE 65 



extraordinary obstacle to development. The diploma is an attes- 
tation to the effect that a thing is finished, consommatum est. 
Its possessor is confident that he has mastered science and 
knows it well. In his Levana Jean Paul says: "When a child 
tells a lie, tell him that he has done wrong, that he has told a 
lie, but do not tell him that he is a liar, for he may at last come 
to believe that he is." This observation is pertinent. Having re- 
ceived a diploma, its possessor imagines that he really knows 
his subject, whereas a diploma is only a civic document. Its 
owner, however, feels himself set aside from mankind and re- 
gards the diplomialess as laymen. Like Jewish circumcision the 
diploma divides -mankind into two species. A young man may 
regard a diploma as a document freeing him from school, as a 
ticket to life; and in that event it is neither harmful nor harm- 
less. Or, on the other hand, he may set himself aside from peo- 
ple in proud consciousness and regards his diploma as a licence 
to citizenship in the republic litierarum and hastens to make 
his appearance on its scholastic forum. The republic of the sa- 
vants is the worst republic there has ever been, including the 
republic of Paraguay under the learned Dr. Francia. The young 
proselyte encounters ways and customs which have become fos- 
silized iand covered with the barnacles of centuries. He is hus- 
tled into arguments endlessly protracted and utterly useless. The 
poor fellow exhausts his strength, is sucked into the artificial 
life of the caste, gradually comes to forget all living interests 
and departs from the contemporary world and the people. He 
comes to regard scholasticism ias the acme of achievement and 
learns to speak and write in the florid and ponderous language 
of the caste. He comes to regard only those events worthy of 
notice which happened no sooner than eight hundred years ago, 
things that were denied in Latin, but were admitted in Greek. 
Yet this is not all. This is only the honeymoon. Very soon a one- 
sided exclusivism takes possession of his mind (something like 
the idee fixe in a madman) . He abandons himself to his special- 
ity and to the narrow limits of handicraft. For him science 
loses its grandeur: no master is a hero to his servant. And thus 
the guild scientist is fully hatched! 

But how can science exist without specialized effort? Is not 
the encyclopaedic superficiality, snatching at everything, pre- 



66 A. HER ZEN 

cisely the shortcoming of the dilettantes? No, science cannot 
exist without specialized branches. But here is the crux of the 
matter. Science is ia living organism through which the truth is 
developed. It has but one true method, namely, the process of 
its organic plastic growth. The form, the system is presupposed 
in the very essence of the conception of the truth and develops 
as conditions permit and as there is a possibility for its realiza- 
tion. The complete system is a differentiation and development 
of the soul of science in order that the soul may become a body 
and the body a soul. Their unity is realized in the method. No 
amount of information will constitute science unless it has 
grown, like living flesh, around a vital centre, i.e., until it ar- 
rives at an understanding of itself as a living body. No brilliant 
universality, on the other hand, constitutes complete scientific 
knowledge if, confined within the icy region of abstractions, it 
has not the power to incarnate itself, to evolve from the genius 
into the species, from the universal into the personal, unless the 
need for individualiziation, for the transition into the world of 
events and action is contained in its inner urge which it can- 
not overcome. All things in life are true and alive only as a 
complete entity, as the co-existent external and internal, the 
universal and the particular. Life binds these opposites to- 
gether. Life is an eternal process of their transition into each 
other. One-sided scientific understanding severs the unsepara- 
bles, i.e., kills what is Diving. Both dilettantism and formalism 
keep within abstract universality and, therefore, neither the 
one nor the other commands real knowledge, but only phantoms 
which easily dissolve in the void surrounding them. To lighten 
their burden they separate life from the living and the burden 
has become light indeed, because such an abstraction is a mere 
nothing. And this precisely is the favourite medium of the dil- 
ettantes of all degrees. They regard it as a boundless ocean 
and are delighted to have such a scope for their dreams and 
fancies. 

But if there is something evidently insane in the idea that life 
can be separated from the living organism and yet be pre- 
served, the error of specialism is of course no better. It does not 
want to know the universal; it never rises to this level, it mis- 
takes the fraction -and the particularity for the origin of knowl- 



DILETTANTISM IN SCIENCE 67 

edge, attributing to -the former self-sufficient existence. Special- 
ism may arrive at the point of compiling a catalogue or at lall 
sorts of subsumptions, but it will never penetrate to their inner 
essence, to their conception, to the truth, if only because of the 
fact that to achieve this all the particularities must be dissolved 
in the truth. Their method is very much like the identification 
of man's inner properties by his galoshes and buttons. The spe- 
cialist's whole attention is concentrated on the particulars and 
with every forward step he grows more and more involved in 
them, and they in turn become -still more fragmentary and triv- 
ial. The division becomes infinite. The dark chaos of acciden- 
tals, ever on the look-out for him, draws him into the mire of 
that extreme of being to which no light ever penetrates: and 
such is the nature of his boundless ocean, the counterpart of 
the dilettante's high seas. The universal, the thought process, 
the idea, that first principle which gives origin to all the partic- 
ulars, that Ariadne's clew of thread is lost to the specialists 
amid the particulars. They sense a terrible danger: facts, phe- 
nomena, modifications and accidents press upon them from all 
sides: they experience the inborn dread of losing their bearings 
in a multiplicity of all sorts of things without any cementing 
principle. They are so conscientious that they cannot console 
themselves with commonplaces like the dilettantes. And losing 
sight of the sole great purpose of science they cling desperately 
to Orientiemng. Anything for orientation, anything to keep 
from being buried alive under the sand-storm of facts stinging 
from all sides! This craving for a beacon prompts them to evolve 
tall sorts of artificial systems and theories, artificial classifi- 
cations and concepts, of which it is known beforehand that they 
are not true. These theories of theirs are difficult to study be- 
cause they are quite unnatural and they in themselves consti- 
tute the unscaleable rampart behind which the adroit scientists 
are ensconced. Those theories of theirs are like blinkers which 
must be removed before science may be descried. But this im- 
pediment itself is the pride and glory of the scientist. Of late 
there has not been a single doctor, physicist or chemist but 
would be ready to produce his own theory: Broussais and Gay- 
Lussac, Thenard, Raspail and tutti quanti. But the more con- 
scientious the scientist, the less probable is it that he can rest 



68 A. HER ZEN 

content with theories such as these. No sooner, has he accepted 
some theory for the purpose of cementing a group of facts than 
a fact turns up which cannot be nailed down anywhere. The 
truant requires a new pigeon-hole, but the new hypothesis con- 
tradicts its predecessor and so on and so forth. The scientist 
ought to be aware of all the theories concerning his special field, 
yet never forget that they are nonsense (which is exprgssly 
stated in all French textbooks on physics and chemistry). De- 
voting his time as he does to the study of the errors of the past 
he cannot find the leisure to treat his subject in non-profession- 
al capacity, still less so to rise into the sphere of genuine 
science enveloping all the particular subjects as its branches. 
But then the scientists do not believe in this kind of science. 
They regard the thinkers with an ironic smile, just as Napoleon 
regarded the ideologists. They are ostensibly people of practical 
experience and observation and yet this practical bent, this ma- 
terialism, does not prevent them from being for the most part 
idealists, for what else are those artificial methods, systems, 
subjective theories, but the extremes of idealism? No matter 
how seriously a man regards himself to be a student of facts 
alone, the inner urge of his mind impells him into the sphere 
of thought, of the idea, of the universal. Far from leading them 
to the correct path of elevation, their recalcitrance has caused 
the specialists to wander about in a quandary of incoherent 
facts and theoretical, disjointed dreams. Elevating themselves 
to the universal, they are yet reluctant to part with a single 
particularity, but that lofty sphere cannot accept what may be 
devoured by the moths: it can hold and illuminate only the eter- 
nal, the generic, and the truly necessary. The world unquestion- 
ably is the basis of science, and a science which does not rest 
on nature and facts is precisely the vague science of the dilet- 
tantes. But on the other hand, facts in crudo, taken in all acci- 
dent of existence, are untenable against the light of reason. In 
science nature is recreated free of the fortuitous and the exter- 
nal influences with which it is hemmed in by existence; it is 
deansed in the. purity of logical necessity. By overcoming the 
fortuitous, science reconciles being with the idea, reinstates the 
natural in all its purity, detects the shortcomings of existence 
(des Daseins) and rectifies it as one who hath power, Nature, 



DILETTANTISM IN SCIENCE 09 

one may say, has been longing for liberation from the fetters 
of fortuitous being and the mind has achieved this feat in sci- 
ence. Abstract metaphysicians should descend from -their clouds 
into physics (in the broadest sense of the word), while the spe* 
cialists crawling on the face of the earth should in their turn 
elevate themselves to it. In such a science there are neither 
theoretical dreams nor factual accidents, but only the mind 
which contemplates itself and nature. 

What chiefly makes the science of the scientists so involved 
'and difficult to understand is the metaphysical ravings and for- 
ests of special branches, the study of which requires many life- 
times and whose scholastic aspect discourages many. But the 
one and the other are absent in genuine science where only a 
perfectly operating organism remains, intelligently constituted 
and therefore simple to understand. Before our very eyes science 
is attaining to a true conception of itself. If it were not so it 
would never occur to us to mention this subject. As now and 
always, of course, the respective branches of science will have 
their technical sides which will be duly handled by the special- 
ists. But this is not what matters. Science, in the best sense of 
the word, shall come to be accessible to the people and when 
it does, it shall claim a voice in all practical matters of life. 
There is no thought which could not be expressed simply and 
clearly, especially in its dialectical development. Boileau is 
right when he says: 

Ce que Von confoit bien s'enonce dairement, 
Et les mots pour le dire arrivent aisement. 

We cannot help smiling when anticipating the plight of the 
scientists who at last grasp the essence of modern science. 
Its true conclusions are so simple and clear that they will be 
scandalized. "How is that?" they will exclaim, "is it possible 
that we have laboured and suffered all our lives, whereas all 
that was needed was to 'Open Sesame'?" For the time, they are 
still capable of respecting science to some extent, because it 
still requires some mental strain to understand how simple it 
really is and to acquire some skill in the matter of recognizing 
the plain truth concealed under the folds of the scholastic vest- 
ments. They indeed do not divine its simplicity. 



70 A. HERZEN 

But if genuine science is really so simple then why did its 
greatest representatives, for instance Hegel, use so difficult a 
language? In spite of the power and grandeur of his genius He- 
gel was but a human being. He dreaded to express himself 
straightforwardly in an epoch of twisted language, for he 
dreaded to follow up the extreme consequences of his fundamen- 
tal principles. He lacked the heroism of consistency, the self- 
sacrifice of accepting the full truth regardless of the cost. The 
greatest men, in fact, shrank from the inferences drawn from 
their fundamental principles. Some of them were frightened and 
retracing their steps sought to obscure their meaning instead of 
seeking clarity. Hegel realized that much of the conventional 
should have been sacrificed: he was too merciful to deal mor- 
tal blows. On the other hand, he could not but give expression 
to that which he was destined to express. Drawing an infer- 
ence, Hegel often dreaded to admit its full consequences and 
sought not the simple, natural conclusion following of itself, 
but strove to adjust it to the circumstances. And thus the logi- 
cal development of his idea became more involved and the mean- 
ing more obscure. To this let us ladd his bad habit of using the 
language of the school, a habit he involuntarily acquired in his 
life-long conversation with the German scientists. But here, 
too, his.genius broke to the surface in all its might. In the midst 
of his tortuous sentences there is suddenly a dazzling word 
which sheds its radiance far around, a word whose thunder re- 
verberates in the soul and inspires awe. No, we cannot reproach 
this great thinker. A great man may rise above his age, but not 
depart from it entirely. And if the younger generations have 
learned to speak more simply, have dared to lift the last of the 
veils from Isis, it is precisely owing to the fact that Hegel's out- 
look already existed and had been assimilated. The man of to- 
day stands on the peak that commands a grand view, but to 
him who paved the way the panorama unfolded gradually. He- 
gel, the first to arrive at the heights, was overwhelmed by the 
grandeur of the scene land could not help searching for his fa- 
miliar foot-hill no longer visible from the peak. And he was 
frightened: it had been too closely associated with all his hard- 
ships, memories and the events within his experience; he would 
have wished to preserve it. The younger generation soaring on 



DILETTANTISM IN SCIENCE 71 

the mighty wings of the great thinker feels neither respect nor 
reverence for that lowly hill, to them it is a thing of the past. 

When youth matures and is no longer frightened by the dizzy 
heights, when it has viewed its surroundings and come to feel 
at home within them, when it is no longer astonished by the in- 
finite vistas of its own freedom, in short, when it learns to iden- 
tify itself with those heights, then its truth and its science shall 
come to be expressed plainly and comprehensibly to all. And 
this wilt come to pass. 

November 1842 

IV 
BUDDHISM IN SCIENCE 

He that findeth his life shall lose it: 
and he that loseth his life for my sake 
shall find it. 

For <is the body without the spirit is 
dead, so faith without works is dead 
also. 

As WE HAVE MENTIONED, science has proclaimed the general 
reconciliation of thought and produced a split among those de- 
sirous of this reconciliation: the one party rejected this recon- 
ciliation without discussion, while the other accepted it literally 
and superficially. There were still others who comprehended 
science correctly, but these constitute the Macedonian phalanx 
of science which is not the subject of the present article. Then 
we have attempted to survey the irreconcilables and found that 
for the most part it was their impaired and imperfect vision 
which prevented them from seeing what was happening and 
understanding what was being said. Because of their imperfect 
sight the fault was attributed to the contemplated object. In- 
cidentally, the disease of the eye does not always imply weak- 
ness of sight. There are times when unusual keenness of sight 
is associated with it, a keenness deviating from its normal func- 
tion. 

Now let us turn to the reconciled. These-include the unrelia- 
bles who downed their weapons at the first volley and accepted 



42 A. HERZEN 

all the terms of truce with exasperating self-denial and suspi- 
cious obedience. Formerly we called them the Mohammedans 
of science, but shall do so no longer: this is reminiscent of the 
vivid and colourful pictures of the Caliphate and Alhambra. In- 
stead, we shall more justly call them the Buddhists of science.* 
We shall try to express our opinion of them in a clear, unpre- 
tentious way and in simple language. 

Science has not only proclaimed the great reconciliation, but 
has kept its word as well. It has really achieved the reconcilia- 
tion in its sphere. It has proved to be that eternal mediator, 
which through consciousness and thought transcends and re- 
conciles the opposites by displaying their unity, which recon- 
ciles them in itself and between themselves by coming to be 
conscious of itself as the truth of the conflicting principles. It 
would be mad to demand that science should achieve anything 
outside its own sphere. The sphere of science is the general, 
thought, reason as the self-cognizing spirit. In this sphere it has 
achieved the main part of its destiny, while the rest will take 
cafre of itself. It has understood, cognized and evolved the truth 
of reason as underlying reality: it has liberated the thought of 
the world from the phenomenon of the world, all things that 
exist, from the fortuitous. It has dissolved everything solid and 
immobile, made transparent everything that is obscure, brought 
light into darkness; it has revealed the eternal in the transient, 
the infinite in the finite and recognized their necessary -exist- 
ence. Fin-ally, it has destroyed the Chinese wall separating the 
absolute, the true, from man and has hoisted the banner of the 
autonomy of reason over the ruins. Proceeding from the simple 
shenomenon of sensuous authenticity and personal reflections, 
t develops -in him the generic idea, the universal reason disen- 
gaged from personality. At the outset it demands the sacrifice 
)f personality, Isaac's offering of the heart; this is its conditio 
rine qua non and however terrible it may seem it is right: it has 
sphere of thought, only one sphere of the universal. Reason 



* The Buddhists accept existence for veritable evil and all that exists 
as ephemeral. To them, supreme existence is the void of infinity. Advancing 
rom stage to stage they achieve the ultimate beatitude of non-existence in 
fc'hich they find complete freedom (Klaproth). 13 What a striking simi- 
larity! AM. 



DILETTANTISM IN SCIENCE 73 

does not recognize this personality, it recognizes only the ne- 
cessity of personalities in general. In supreme justice it accepts 
no persons. Those who are initiated in science must lay aside 
their personality, must conceive of it as something that is not 
true, but accidental and enter the temple of science by discard- 
ing it together with all personal convictions. This ordeal is too 
difficult for some and too easy for others. We have had occasion 
to observe that science is inaccessible to the dilettantes because 
their personalities stand between them and science. The dilettan- 
tes clutch at their personalities tand forbear to approach the pre- 
cipitous stream for fear that the rapid current will carry them 
away and drown them. And even when they do approach, their 
instinct of self-preservation -prevents them from seeing any- 
thing. To such as these science will not reveal itself just because 
they for their part will not reveal themselves to science. Science 
demands that man abandon himself unhesitatingly and with- 
out reservations and be rewarded by the heavy cross of sober 
knowledge. The man incapable of surrendering his heart to 
anything whatever is a pitiful creature. Not only does science 
close the gates of its temple to him, but he can be neither deeply 
religious, nor a genuine artist, nor a virtuous citizen. He is 
neither to know the deep sympathy of friendship nor the passion- 
ate flash of love reciprocated. Love and friendship indeed are 
reciprocating echoes and give no more than they take. In con- 
trast to these misers and egotists of the moral world there are 
the profligates and the spendthrifts who set at nought both 
themselves and their fortunes. They recklessly hurl themselves 
upon self-denial in the universal and at the first command dis- 
card both their personality and their convictions as so much 
soiled linen. The bride whom they lare wooing, however, is 
whimsical. She does not desire the hearts of those who are too 
ready to give them up and indeed are too glad to get rid of 
them; and she is right. What is a personality worth if it may so 
easily be discarded? But then what is the solution? Should one 
discard the personality only to cling to it? The sleight of hand 
of a new cabbala? 

The personality perishes in science. But besides its affinity 
with the sphere of the universal, has not the personality another 
aspect, an aspect that is personal? If so, it cannot be absorbed 



74 A. HERZEN 

by science precisely because the latter eliminates the personal 
by generalizing it. The elimination of the personality in science 
is the process of transition from the spontaneously natural per- 
sonality into the conscious, freely cognizing personality; and 
thus the personality is liquidated only to be reborn. Does not 
the parabola vanish in its equation, and the individual figure in 
the formula? Algebra is the logic of mathematics. Its algo- 
rithm represents general laws, their results ancl operations in 
their eternal, generic, impersonal forms. The parabola, however, 
did not perish in its formula, but lies dormant there, like the 
figure in a formula. To achieve an actual effect, the symbol 
must be replaced by a figure and it is thus that the formula 
comes to life and is borne into the world of realities from which 
it originally emerged and is now consummated in a practical 
effect without, however, annihilating itself. This operation has 
brought about its practical realization and the formula reigns 
supreme as ever in the sphere of the universal. Examples from 
formal science always facilitate comprehension, if only we bear 
in mind that speculative science is not merely formal but that 
its formula at the same time exhausts its very content. 

And so the personality which resolves itself in science does 
not vanish irrevocably. It has to undergo this elimination in 
order to realize that its destruction is impossible. To become a 
chalice of the truth the personality must renounce itself; it 
must forget itself to avoid becoming an impediment, to accept 
the truth with all its consequences, among which it 
will discover its inalienable right to autonomous existence. To 
perish in natural spontaneity means to rise again in the spirit 
and not perish in the infinite nothingness as the Buddhists do. 
Such a victory is rendered possible and real only through strug- 
gle. The growth of the spirit is as difficult a process as the 
growth of the body. Only that becomes our very own which has 
been acquired by labour and suffering; that which comes by the 
windfall is of little value to us. The gambler flings his gold 
away by the handful. What would have been the point of 
testing Abraham if the sacrifice of Isaac had meant nothing 
to him? 

A robust and sound personality does not surrender itself to 
science without a struggle. On the contrary, it refuses to yield 



DILETTANTISM IN SCIENCE 7fi 

an iota. It abhors the very demand to sacrifice itself, but an 
irresistible power impels it towards the truth. With every blow 
man realizes that he is pitted against an invincible force: in 
agony he is compelled to relinquish bit by bit everything that 
is his very own, his heart iand soul. A veritable Odysseus clutch- 
ing at the sharp rocks to save himself from the seething waves 
coloured with his blood. But the victor gives no quarter and 
the vanquished desires none. In reality, however, the victor 
will claim nothing: it has no need for what is human. It was 
man who needed to give and not science which needed to take. 
The formalists whoever dwell in the world of abstractions set 
no store upon the surrender of their personalities and, therefore, 
gain nothing from such surrender. They forget both life and 
action. Their lyricism and passions are readily gratified with 
abstract comprehension and, therefore, it costs them neither 
labour nor suffering to sacrifice their personal values. To offer 
up Isaac is nothing to them. The formalists study science as 
something external. They are to a certain extent able to assimi- 
late its principles and expressions and believe that they have 
gained possession of its life-giving spirit. One has to live 
through science in order to digest not the mere form of it, but 
the essence itself. The man who has broken his leg knows what 
the pain is like better than any physician who has not. To suffer 
through the phenomenology of the spirit, 14 to shed the heart's 
blood and weep scorching tears, to waste away from scepticism, 
to pity and to love and to yield everything to the truth such is 
the poem of progress of science. Science becomes a vampire, a 
fiend which cannot be exorcised, for it has been evoked from the 
breast of man itself and can vanish into no other grave. At this 
juncture one has to set aside all plea ant thoughts of beguiling 
the time with philosophical interlocution for the edification of 
the mind and the ornamentation of the memory. The crucial 
questions are relentless and always confront the victim no mat- 
ter how he squirms. They are written in flame like the fiery 
words of Daniel. Their attraction is irresistible, a precipice 
drawing everything into itself for the mysterious danger of its 
depths. It is the snake who holds the bank; the game which be- 
gan sedately enough, with logical commonplaces, quickly gains 
momentum and grows desperate; the cards fly: cherished 



7(J A. BfiKZEN 

dreams, tender aspirations, Olympus and Hades, hopes for the 
future, confidence in the present, blessings on the past, all these 
are casually turned up one after the other by science which un- 
smilingly, without irony or sympathy, coldly reiterates the one 
word: "trumped!" What else can one stake? Everything has 
been lost. Only one thing remains: one's self. It too is now flung 
into the game land from that moment one's luck is reversed. 
Woe be to him who has failed to stake his all and left the game 
. a loser. He will either collapse under the burden of agonizing 
doubt or be consumed by the thirst for faith; or 'he will mis- 
take his -defeat for victory and smugly reconcile himself to his 
injuries. The former leads to moral suicide, the second to soul- 
less atheism. The personality that was firm enough to stiake it- 
self in the game is completely abandoned to science, which, 
however, cannot possibly absorb such a personality. Nor can the 
latter of its own accord disintegrate in the universal, for that 
it is far too great: he that loseth his life shall find it. 

He who has suffered all this in the quest for science, is re- 
warded not with the carcass of the truth, but with the living or- 
ganism of the truth itself; he is at home in it and is no longer 
to be surprised either by his freedom or its light. This reconcilia- 
tion, however, is not sufficient for him, nor is the bliss of serene 
meditation and contemplation. He desires the full richness 
of ecstasy and suffering; he desires to act, for action alone cian 
satisfy man to the full. Action is the personality itself. When 
Dante entered the ethereal realm untroubled by grief and sighs, 
when he saw the incorporeal dwellers of Paradise he grew 
ashamed of the shadow cast by his own body. Those bright and 
bodiless beings were no companions for him of gross clay and 
so he returned to the vale of tears leaning on the -staff of a 
homeless exile. But now he will no longer go astray, nor drop 
midway from fatigue. He has survived his resurrection and 
suffered its pangs. He has wandered through life and the tor- 
ments of hell. He was deafened by the cries land groans of ago- 
ny. With vacant suffering eyes he prayed for even the slightest 
relief, but instead heard only fresh shrieks, e nuovi tormenti, e 
nuovi tormentati. Penetrating to Lucifer himself, he rose 
through purgatory into the sphere of ever-blissful and incorpo- 
real life. He has learned that there truly is a world in which 



DILETTANTISM IN SCIENCE 77 

man is happy divorced from earth and has returned to life to 
bear its cross. 

The Buddhists of science who have ris-en to the sphere of the 
universal by one way or another never depart from it. There is 
nothing that could tempt them into the world of realities. Who, 
indeed, could draw them away from the spacious temple with 
its honourable but idle existence to the throes and passions of 
our life where man must work hard and sometimes die. The 
specific gravity of certain bodies causes them to sink in water, 
but such things las straws and shavings will float importantly 
on the surface. The formalists have found reconciliation in 
science, but of a false sort. In fact they have found a more com- 
plete reconciliation than science could ever afford. But they 
have failed to understand how reconciliation is achieved. They 
came to science with feeble sight and feeble desire and are 
blinded by the light iand abundance of gratification. They were 
fond of science as groundlessly as the dilettantes were not. They 
imagined that to know reconciliation was sufficient and that to 
put it into effect was superfluous. Having withdrawn from the 
world which they regarded negatively they were loath to return 
to it. They thought that to be cured it is quite sufficient only to 
know that quinine may serve as a cure for fever. It never oc- 
curred to them that science is but a stage of life, that life surges 
towards it naturally and spontaneously and flows from it again 
consciously free. They have failed to understand that science is 
a heart to which the dark venous blood flows not to stagnate 
there, but to combine with the fiery element of air and to diffuse 
through the body in crimson arteriial streams. The formalists 
thought that they had found a snug haven, but as a matter of 
fact they ought to have cast off at once. They stood with folded 
arms whereas they should have rolled up their sleeves. Accord- 
ing to them knowledge in itself was payment in full for life 
with which they consequently could dispense: they conceived 
that science was an object in itself iand imagined that it was 
the only object that man should strive for. 

The reconciliation that science offers is actually the resump- 
tion of a struggle which arrives at reconciliation in practical 
spheres. This reconciliation occurs in the mind, but "man is not 



78 A. HERZEN 

merely a thinking, but also an acting being."* This reconcilia- 
tion is universal and negative and therefore it rejects the person- 
ality. The positive reconciliation may be achieved only in free, 
intelligent and conscious action. In those spheres still necessi- 
tating the presence of the personality as an active witness, the 
latter is preserved; as in religion which not only uplifts the per- 
soniality, but also condescends to it and preserves it; in religion 
faith is dead without works and love is placed above all. 
Abstract thought is a constant reiteration of the death sentences 
meted out to all things transient. It is the decapitation of all 
that is unjust and decrepit in the name of the immortal iand 
eternal. And it is for this that science at every moment denies 
that imaginary invincibility of the existing. Now the action of 
conscious love is creative. Love is universal forgiveness, the 
merciful goodness which gathers to its bosom all that is most 
transient for the sake of the mark of the eternal imprinted upon 
it. Pure abstractions, on the other hand, cannot exist. The oppo- 
site steals into the house of its enemy and grows within it; the 
denial of science is fraught with something positive. This latent 
positiveness is set free by love and is diffused on all sides like 
calorific seeking constantly to find the conditions for its realiza- 
tion, an egress from the sphere of universal negation into that 
of free laction. When science has reached its apex it quite natu- 
rally transcends itself. In science thought and being are recon- 
ciled, but the conditions of the world are the doing of thought 
and the full reconciliation lies in the doing. "Doing is a live 
unity of theory and practice," said the greatest thinker of the 
ancient world more than two thousand yeiars ago.** In action, 
the heart and mind are absorbed by realization. In the phenom- 
enal world they have fulfilled that which existed in potentiali- 
ty. Are history and the rising structure of the world not actions 
in themselves? The action of a mind alone, on the other hand, 
is thought annihilating personality. In it man is infinite, but 
loses his personality. In thought he is immortal, but he is not 
he. Now the action of a discreet heart is a particular deed that 

* These are the words of Goethe. In his Propadeutik (Vol. XVIII, 63) 
Hegel says: "The word is not yet the deed which is superior to speech." And 
the Germans apparently understood this. A.H. 
** Aristotle A.H. 



DILETTANTISM IN SCIENCE 79 

is not able to evolve into the universal. In his heart man is at 
home but transient. It is only in the intelligent, morally free 
and vehemently energetic action that man arrives at the actual- 
ity of his personality and immortalizes himself in the phenome- 
nal world. In such action man is eternal in the transient, infi- 
nite in the finite, represents both his genus and himself,* and is 
a live and conscious organ of his epoch. 

The truth just uttered is far from being realized. The greatest 
and mightiest representatives of contemporary mankind have 
conceived of thought iand action in different and one-sided ways. 
Germany, sedate, deep-feeling and contemplative has defined 
man as thought; she has recognized science as an aim and con- 
ceived of moral freedom only as an inner element. She has ne- 
ver fully developed her sense of practical activity. By general- 
izing every issue she escaped from life into abstractions and 
finished with a one-sided solution. True to the instinct of the 
Latin people, Savonarola became the head of a political 
party.** But the German reformers who destroyed Catholicism 
in half of Germany did not abandon theology and scholastic 
controversy. Germany has repeated the new phases of French 
history in science and partly in art. The Germanic world con- 
tains another, opposite trend, but also abstract and one-sided. 

England on the other hand is supremely endowed with a sense 
for the significance of life and activity, but each of her actions 
is ia particular one. With the British the all-human promptly 
turns into the national: the universal issue is reduced to a local 
one. Separated from mankind by the seas and proud of her in- 
sularity, England will not disclose her heart to the continent. 
The Britisher will never relinquish his personality. He is too 
aware of his merits, of that inviolable grandeur, that halo of 
respect with which he has surrounded the idea of personality. 



* These expressions will be ridiculed by our jesters, but let us not be 
timid. Let the jesters have their fun. For this they are jesters. To them fun 
is a compensation for obtuseness and from sheer human kindness we should 
leave them their cheap revenge. A.M. 

** "The character of the Latin race is more keen than that of the Ger- 
mans. They set themselves definite aims and bring them about with extra- 
ordinary firmness, deliberation and skill." Philosophic der Geschichte" 
Vol. IX, p. 422.-A H. 



80 A. II EH ZEN 

The dormant people of Italy and the freshly awakened Span- 
iards lay no claims to prerogatives in question. 

And so only two nations remain to whom we must involunta- 
rily turn. On the one hand France, most fortunately situated in 
the European world gathered about her, verges on Latin land 
touches upon all varieties of Germanism from Britain and Bel- 
gium down to the countries of the Rhine. A Latin-Germanic 
country herself she seems to be called upon to reconcile the 
(abstract and practical bent of the Mediterranean nations with 
the abstract and speculative turn of those across the Rhine, the 
poetic indolence of sunlit Italy with the industrial zeal of the 
fog-bound island. France and Germany hitherto did not under- 
stand each other completely. Different things troubled and 
attracted them and different words were used for the same 
things. Quite recently, however, they have grown to know each 
other: it was Napoleon who introduced them to one another. 
After they had exchanged visits, and the passions had subsided 
together with the smoke of battle, they learned to bow to each 
other with respect and recognition, but real unity is lacking as 
yet. The science of Germany refuses to cross the Rhine. Without 
waiting for the full evolution of dialectics, the quick-witted 
French are wont to snatch an idea from somewhere in their 
middle and hasten to put it to use. The future has yet to show 
to what degree France can serve as a medium for the recon- 
ciliation of life and science. 

One should not, however, imagine that the contrast between 
France and Germany is really so sharp. More often than not, 
it is quite superficial. In her own way, France has arrived at 
conclusions very close to those of the Germans, but she is not 
able to translate them into the language of the universal, just 
as Germany cannot render logic in the language of life. German 
science, moreover, has ever drawn upon the French. The influence 
of the Encyclopaedists, let alone of Descartes, was immense. 
Germany, in fact, could never have reached maturity without 
the great mass of facts furnished by France in lall branches of 
science. On the other hand we of the North might be called upon 
to contribute our mite to the treasure-house of human reason. 
Perhaps we, who have scarcely lived in the past, will come to 
be the representatives of actual unity of science and life, of 



DILETTANTISM IN SCIENCE 81 

word and deed. In history the late-comer receives not the leav- 
ings, but the dessert. There is something in our character which 
combines the best sides of the French with the best sides of the 
Germans. We are by far more fit for scientific thought than the 
French and we are decidedly averse to the philistine life of the 
Germans. There is something gentleman-like about us, which 
the Germans lack. Upon our brow there is the imprint of grave 
thought which somehow evades the countenance of the French. 

But let us not indulge in conjectures about the future and re- 
turn to the subject at hand. The German philosophers somehow 
foresaw that it is action and not science which is the aim of 
man. More often than not it was a prophetic inconsistency of 
genius that forced its way into the austere and dispassionate 
logical structures. Even Hegel's idea of action was more hinted 
at than evolved. The evolution of this idea was the work not of 
his epoch, but of the epoch which he launched. Revealing the 
sphere of the spirit Hegel spoke of science and lart and neglect- 
ed the practical activities attending all historical events. The 
series of German thinkers of whom Hegel was the last is not 
to be bracketed with the real formalists. The former had pur- 
sued no other aims than the acquisition of knowledge, but that 
was what the age demanded then. Laboriously they paved the 
wiay of science for mankind and their reward was the reconcil- 
iation in science alone. Owing to their place in history, there- 
fore, they were justified in resting content with the universal. 
They were called upon to testify before the world that self-cog- 
nition was an accomplished fact and to show the way that leads 
to it: and precisely herein lay their action. 

Nowadays the situation is different. To us, life in the abstract, 
in the universal sphere is altogether untimely, a mere personal 
whim. Every new trend of thought has claims to predominance 
and absolute importance. Belief in the new trend is the chief 
prerequisite of success. But further evolution in time necessarily 
transcends the would-be absolute sphere, and this necessity of 
transition may be more justly said to be absolute. Hegel very 
profoundly observed: "It is the task of philosophy to understand 
what is, for what is, is the mind. Just as every personality is 
the product of its time, so too philosophy is the epoch grasped 
in thought. It is absurd to suppose that any philosophy could 

1157 



82 A. HERZEN 

transcend its contemporary world."* The task of the world 
sprung from the Reformation was to comprehend, but compre- 
hension is not the will's last word. The philosophers have over- 
looked positive activity and no harm was done by that. The 
practical sphere had a voice of its own and raised it when the 
time came; and that time came quickly enough: mankind is 
rushing ahead like a steam engine. The centuries are pressed 
into years. Barely ten years have passed since the death of 
Goethe and Hegel, these greatest men of art and science, when 
Schelling, carried away by the new trend, set himself aims lalto- 
gether different from those with which he set forth in science at 
the beginning of the century. The apostasy of Schelling, at any 
rate, is an event fraught with meaning. There is more of poetic 
contemplation in Schelling than dialectics. And like Vates, he 
was frightened by the ocean of the universal ready to swallow 
the whole of spiritual activity. Retracing his steps because he 
was unable to cope with the consequences of his own principles, 
he departed from contemporary life and thereby indicated its 
sore spot. New currents of life and science are felt in the Ger- 
man atmosphere. This is obvious in journalism, fiction and 
works of art. The personality, so neglected by science, demand- 
ed new rights, a new life replete with passion and content with 
nothing less than free, creative work. After the negation in the 
sphere of thought the personality was anxious for negation in 
other spheres: its need grew plain. It was a demand warranted 
by science. And far from obstructing it, science gave its bless- 
ing to the intensified life of the personality, to the life of free 
action in the name of absolute impersonality. 

Yes, indeed, science is the kingdom of impersonality, a king- 
dom freed of passions, becalmed in profoundest self-cognition, 
illuminated by the all-pervading light of reason. It is the king- 
dom of the idea, not lifeless and still like death, but plaqid in 
its very motion like the ocean spaces. Science is the realm of the 
Olympic deities and not of people, of the mothers 16 to whom 
Faust ascended. In science the truth is incarnated not in ia ma- 
terial body, but in a logical organism and is alive through the 
architectonics of dialectical development and not through the 



Philosophic des Re Ms, Vorrede. Author 1 ? italics. A//. 



DILETTANTISM IN SCIENCE 83 

epic of the transient being. In science the law is the thought 
wrested and preserved from the tempest of existence, from ex- 
ternal and accidental disturbances. In it the harmony of the 
spheres is heard, every sound of which contains eternity be- 
cause it contains the necessity, because the accidental sigh of 
the transient does not reach so high. We concur with the for- 
malists in that science is superior to life, but this very superior- 
ity testifies to its one-sidedness. What is concretely true cannot 
be either beneath or above life; it must lie in the nodal centre, 
like the heart in an organism. And just because science is above 
life, its sphere is abstract and its completeness is incomplete. 
The living entity consists not of the universal which has can- 
celled the particular, but of both the universal and the particular 
which attract and repulse each other. It is not to be found in any 
one logical stage, for all stages belong to it. However self-suf- 
ficient and exhaustive some definitions may seem, they melt 
away in the fire of life and, having lost their one-sidedness, flow 
into the broad all-embracing stream. 

The reason of the real has elucidated itself in science and so 
settled accounts with the past and the present. As to the future, 
it is to be realized not in the sphere of the universal alone. This 
sphere, indeed, contains no future as such, because the future is 
a foregone conclusion, a logical inference, and its realization 
would be too poor and too abstract. Thought must be clothed 
with flesh to descend into the bustle of life, to reveal itself in 
all the beauty and exuberance of the transient being without 
which there can be no living, passionate and absorbing action. 

Warum bin ich verganglich, o Zeus? so fragte die Sthonheit, 
Macht* ich dock, sagte der Gott, nur das Vergdngliche schon. 

Goethe 

Not only has science realized its autonomy, but also that it 
is itself the law of the world. Translating the world into terms 
of thought, it has renounced the world as the real, it has subli- 
mated it by its negation which nothing real can withstand. In 
the sphere of the positive-real, science destroys; in the sphere of 
logic, it creates such is its vocation. Man's vocation, however, 
is not logic alone, but also the socio-historical world of moral 
frppHnm and nnsitivp flrtinrv man ha<; nnt nnlv thp ahilitv of ah- 



84 A. HER ZEN 

stracting comprehension but also the will which may be called 
positive, creative reason. Man cannot forbear from the human 
work around him. He must act in his place and in his time and 
this is his universal vocation, his conditio sine qua non. The per- 
sonality transcending science belongs neither to personal life 
nor to the sphere of the universal. The particular and the uni- 
versal are combined in it by the unity of the citizen; having 
achieved reconciliation in science, it craves for reconciliation in 
life, but to accomplish this it has to realize its moral will in all 
practical spheres. 

The fault of the Buddhists is that they feel no need for an 
egress into life, for the real realization of the idea. They mistake 
the reconciliation in science for all-round reconciliation. To 
them it is not a stimulus to action, but a pretext for complete, 
self-sufficient contentment. For the world beyond the covers of 
their books, they care nought. They are prepared to suffer any- 
thing for the vacancy of the universal. It is thus that the legiti- 
mate Indian Buddhists strive to purchase liberation in Buddha 
at the price of existence. To them Buddha is an abstract infinity, 
mere nothing. But science has conquered the world iVr man, it 
has in fact conquered history for him, and it has no! done all 
this'to enable him to rest content. The universality kept within 
its abstract sphere must always lead to the somnolence destruc- 
tive to activity to Indian quietism. 

Unable to withstand the flame of negation, the granite world 
of events is melted down and cascades into the ocean of science. 
But across this ocean man must swim to begin activity on the 
other sids, in the promised Atlantis; and there he is to begin 
to act not by means of groping instinct, or desperate probing, 
or obscure intuition, but with complete moral freedom. Man 
cannot rest content as long as his environment is not in accord 
with him. The formalists are resigned to the fact that they have 
struck out into the seas and now float on the surface without 
striving to swim anywhere; they will be covered with ice before 
they realize it. But to them the ice seems like transparent waves, 
whereas in reality it is but an imitation of motion, now frozen 
and dead. The formalists themselves turned to ice, have done 
science irretrievable damage by using its language and deliver- 
ing their relentless indictments, as chilling as the blasts of the 



DILETTANTISM IN SCIENCE 85 

Arctic. The brilliance of their speech is like the sparkling of ice, 
lifeless and frigid, unaffected by the sun which can destroy it but 
not make it warm. Their hearers have been shocked at the lack 
of human kindness displayed by the greater part of the Berlin 
and other pillars of formalism, those Talmudists of the new 
science. Guided by the letter of science alone, they have stifled 
every vestige of feeling, of warm sympathy. Deliberately and 
with great effort they have hoisted themselves to the level of 
indifference to all things human tand firmly believe that they 
have attained to the loftiest of heights. Incidentally, it should 
not be supposed that they have no hearts, for sometimes they 
merely pretend that they have not (it is a new kind of captatio 
benevolentiae) . They have always mistaken the formal solu- 
tions for real ones. They have always believed that personality 
is an evil habit which should have long been eradicated. They 
have preached resignation to the dark side of modern life, de- 
fining as actual and consequently as worthy of recognition all 
that is trivial, accidental, and outd-ated, in short, everything 
that they might pick up in the streets. This is the way they un- 
derstood the great idea that "the actual is the rational"; they 
branded every noble urge with the word Schonseligkeit without 
understanding the sense in which the word was used by their 
teacher.* If we iadd to this their absurd and ponderous lan- 
guage, the arrogance of narrow-mindedness, we shall be giving 
due credit to the intuition of society which has regarded these 
clowns of science with mistrust. Hegel never missed an oppor- 
tunity to plead and beg that one should beware of formalism.** 
He argued that the truest definition taken literally or carried to 
the desperate extreme, would lead to trouble he railed, but in 
vain. They have taken his words literally, have carried them to 
desperate extremes. They cannot adjust themselves to the eter- 
nal progress of the truth; they cannot recognize once and for 
all that every declaration must be denied in favour of one supe- 



* "There is a more complete peace with reality brought about by its 
cognition than the desperate consciousness that the transient is evil or 
unsatisfactory, but one should reconcile oneself to it because there can be 
no better." Philosophic des Rechts. A.H. 

** For example, throughout the Introduction to his Phenomeno- 
logy. A.H. 



86 A. UERZEN 

rior to it and that it is only in the continuous sequence of stages, 
of struggles and changes that the live truth is born, that these 
are but the snakeskins that it sheds to emerge freer than ever. 
They cannot (though they do hold forth on similar matters) 
adjust themselves to the thought that there is nothing to lean 
upon in the development of science, that their only salvation 
lies in rapid onward movement; they clutch at every passing 
stage as if it were the whole truth. They mistake a one-sided def- 
inition of the object for all of its definitions. They demand max- 
ims, ready-made rules. Arriving at a sequent station they in their 
ridiculous credulity each time believe that they have reached 
the terminal of the absolute, that this is their destination. 
They adhere strictly to the text and for that reason cannot grasp 
its meaning. It is not enough to understand what is written: one 
has to grasp what lies between the lines, what shines in the eye. 
It is necessary to digest a book in such a way as to depart from 
it. And this is the way the living understand science. Under- 
standing is the revelation of the sympathetic homogeneity 
which goes before. The living assimilate science in a living way, 
the formalists in a formal way. Take Faust and his colleague 
Wagner, for example. To the former science is a vital question: 
"to be or not to be." He is liable to fall, to despair, to err, to 
seek enjoyments, but his nature penetrates deeply beyond the 
crust of the external. His lie has more truth in it than the shal- 
low, infallible truth of Wagner. What is difficult to Faust is 
easy to Wagner. The latter is surprised that Faust cannot un- 
derstand the simplest things. And one has to be very wise in- 
deed not to understand them. Science does not torment Wagner, 
but on the contrary soothes, pacifies and holds forth hope to him 
in difficult times. He has cheaply purchased his tranquillity be- 
cause he has never really been troubled about anything. Where 
he meets with unity, reconciliation, and salvation and therefore 
smiles, Faust finds disruption, hatred, complications and there- 
fore suffers. 

Every student passes through formalism one of the stages 
of his formation but it is the man with the living spirit who 
passes through, while the formalist goes no further. Formalism 
to the former is merely ia passing stage, to the latter, a termi- 
nus. Thus nature, achieving its perfection in man, pauses at her 



DILETTANTISM IN SCIENCE 87 

every step, perpetualizing it in a new genus which represents 
both a milestone in her progress and the one and supreme form 
of existence at this level. Neither nature nor science, however, 
could rest content without following up the final consequences 
of their conceptions. Nature has transcended itself in man and 
'thereby effaced itself. Science presently is undergoing a similar 
process: it is achieving its supreme destiny; it is the all-con- 
suming sun, the mind of the real, and consequently the vindica- 
tion of the latter. Science has not yet paused to rest upon its 
lofty throne; it has transcended its apex and points to the egress 
from itself into practical life, aware that not the whole content 
of the human spirit has been exhausted within it, although the 
whole of it has been comprehended. It will not, however, be 
dethroned by submerging itself in life. What it has achieved 
within its own sphere will remain its own for ever. 
Nor will man be compelled to sacrifice the spheres of 
life by yielding himself to science. But the Orthodox 
Buddhists are fiercer champions of science than science itself: 
they would rather lay down their lives than yield her autocratic 
reign over life. "There is nescience, but science and abstraction 
is its prophet," is their motto. They reply to everything with 
resounding words. Instead of bridging the chasm separating 
the abstract from the real, and thought from life, they cover 
it lightly with a veil of artificial, dialectical embellishments. To 
stretch all things real on the bed of Procrustes is not difficult 
for those heedless of protest from reality. The layman some- 
times wonders how easily the formalists subject the strangest 
facts, the most extraordinary phenomena to their general laws. 
Yet, he cannot help but feel that this is sleight of hand, astound- 
ing perhaps, but disconcerting to those who demand a sound 
and conscientious solution. To some extent the formalists may 
be forgiven for they are the first to be deluded by their own trick- 
ery. Voltaire once related how a physician seeking to convince i 
healthy man that he was blind, argued that the absurd fact that 
he could see failed to disprove his contention and that 
therefore he considered him to be blind. In this strain the 
Buddhists used to harangue with the Germans until the latter, 
for all their gentle kindness, perceived what lay behind it all. 
It turned out that the facts were not at all governed by the laws 



88 A. HER ZEN 

of the Buddhists. In this respect they resembled the Emperors 
of China, who regarded themselves >as rulers of the earth though 
no land beyond that of China paid homage to them. 

The dilettantes, who are as yet outside of science, may come 
to their senses and take to science in all seriousness. At any 
rate there may be stili a suspicion that this miracle may come 
about. The formalists, on the other hand, are completely above 
such suspicion. They are calm, unperturbed and can be expected 
to go no further. They are indeed utterly unaware that there is 
any further way to go. This placid contentment is the origin of 
their very gnave and incurable malady. Though slightly glassy, 
their gaze is still and unrippled within. They feel that they have 
only to rest content and enjoy life. The rest will take care of 
itself. Why should people trouble with anything when everything 
has been digested and explained and mankind has achieved 
the absolute form of existence,* which is clearly proved by the 
fact that modern philosophy is the absolute philosophy iand 
science and is always identical with the epoch provided it has 
come to be. This argument seems irrefutable to them. They are 
undaunted by facts, for they ignore them. If asked why, under 
this absolute scheme of existence, workmen starve in Birming- 
ham and Manchester, or at best obtain barely enough food to 
avoid being incapacitated, they reply that this phenomenon is 
merely fortuitous. If asked how they fit the absolute formula to 
the march of events which show its non-absolute character, they 
reply with reference to paragraph so-and-so of so-iand-so. This, 
to them, constitutes full proof and why trouble, therefore, with 
the exact implication of the words given in paragraph so-and- 
so? It is very difficult to open the eyes of the formalists. Decid- 
edly like their Buddhist counterparts, they regard death and 
annihilation in the infinite as their supreme aim iand delivery, 
and the higher they ascend in the icy spheres of abstractions, 
the more divorced are they from the things of life, and the more 
tranquil. It is thus that the egotists secure a sort of happy tran- 
quillity by stifling all human feeling and keeping aloof from 
everything unpleasant or disturbing. To egotism as well as to 

* This is not my invention, but what Bayerhoffer's History of Philoso- 
phy says (Die Idee and Geschichte der Philosophic von Bayerhoffer, Leipzig 
1838, final chapter) .A.M. 



DILETTANTISM IN SCIENCE 89 

formalism one must be born however. Anyone may turn away 
from scenes of suffering, but not everyone can cease to suffer 
at the sight of such scenes. This is what Hegel, whose name 
is used in vain to advertise all the absurdities of present-day 
formalism, just as the trademark of Farina to sell Eau de Co- 
logne produced throughout the world, has said on formalism:* 
"The formalism which has been deprecated and despised by 
recent philosophy, and which has arisen once more in philoso- 
phy itself, will not disappear from science, even though its inad- 
equacy is known and felt, till the knowledge of absolute reali- 
ty has become quite clear. Having in mind that the general idea 
of what is to be done, if it precedes the attempt to carry it out, 
facilitates the comprehension of this process, it is worth while 
to indicate here some rough idea of it, with the hope iat the 
same time that this will give us the opportunity to set aside cer- 
tain forms whose habitual presence is a hindrance in the way 
of speculative knowledge. In my view a view which the devel- 
oped exposition of the system itself can alone justify every- 
thing depends on grasping and expressing the ultimate truth 
not as Substance but as Subject as well. At the same time we 
must note that concrete substantiality implicates and involves 
the universal or the immediiacy of knowledge itself, as well as 
that immediacy which is being, or immediacy qua object for 
knowledge. If the generation which heard God spoken of as the 
One Substance was shocked and revolted by such a characteri- 
zation of his nature, the reason lay partly in the instinctive 
feeling that in such a conception self-consciousness was simply 
submerged, and not preserved. But partly, again, the opposite 
position, which maintains thinking to be merely subjective 
thinking, abstract universality as such, is exactly the same bare 
uniformity, is undifferentiated, unmoved substantiality. And 
even if, in the third place, thought combines with itself the be- 
ing of substance, and conceives immediiacy or intuition (An- 
schauen) as thinking, it is still a question whether this intellec- 
tual intuition docs not fallback into that inert, abstract simplic- 
ity, and exhibit and expound reality itself in an unreal man- 
ner." In his Philosophy of Right Hegel declares that between 



Phenomenologie, Vorrede. A.M. 



90 A. HERZEN 

self-cognition land reality there most often lies an abstraction 
which has not yet disengaged itself to become a conception. 
When reading this and similar excerpts, one cannot but help 
wonder how those good people could read Hegel all their lives 
and fail to understand anything. The truth of the matter is that 
in a book the reader understands only that which is more or less 
lodged in his mind. The Emperor of China must have been awiare 
of this when thanking a missionary, who had taught him math- 
ematics, for reminding him of things which he had forgotten, 
though certainly he must have known them in his capacity of 
Omniscient Son of Heaven. And so it is indeed. Only that is 
understood in Hegel which harks back to what had in embryo 
pre-existed in the mind. A book is merely a midwife. It only las- 
sists at the birth, but is not to be held responsible for what is 
born. 

It should be remembered, however, that Hegel himself often 
lapsed into the German malady, the symptom of which is the 
acceptance of learning as the ultimate aim of universal history. 
He has said as much.* In the third part we have stated that 
Hegel was often unfaithful to his first principles. But no man 
can be expected to rise above his age. He was nonetheless the 
greatest representative of science and by pursuing it to its ulti- 
mate point, dealt the power of its exclusiveness a blow, perhaps 
reluctant, but effective nonetheless; for every forward step 
brings science a step closer to the practical spheres of life. He- 
gel, completely absorbed in science, could not take such a step 
himself. To the Germanic world sprung from the Reformation 
science was as art to the Hellenic world. But in their one-sid- 
edness, neither science nor art could give complete satisfac- 
tion and supply all answers to all questions. While lart por- 
trayed, science comprehended, but the new age demands that 
that which has been comprehended should be put into effect in 
the real world. The genius of Hegel constantly tore at the fetters 
imposed upon him by the spirit of the times, by education, 
habits, the way of life, and his Academic chair. Witness how 
grandly his Philosophy of Right is unfolded. It is not its phra- 



In The History of Philosophy, if I remember correctly.^.//. 



DILETTANTISM IN SCIENCE 91 

seology, its expressions which we shall set forth, however, but 
its inner and real meaning, the spirit of the book. 

The province of abstract law is resolved in and transcended 
by the world of morality, i.e., the world of legal standards clar- 
ified for itself, but Hegel does not stop at this and from the 
heights of law swoops into the current of world history. The 
science of law is thus consummated and transcended. The evo- 
lution of the personality follows the same pattern. Rising like 
vapours from natural spontaneity, the indistinct individualities 
are clarified in the sun-rays of the idea and are resolved in the 
infinite spaces of the universal. They are not, however, destroyed 
there. Incorporating the universal, they fall in benign show- 
ers, in crystal drops to their native earth. The magnificence of 
the personality thus transfigured consists in that it has pre- 
served both worlds, that it is the genus and the indivisible to- 
gether, that it has become that which it was born, or rather, to 
which it was born: the conscious link between both worlds. It 
has cognized its universality and yet preserved its oneness. 
The personality thus evolved accepts cognition as the immedia- 
cy of the highest order and not as the fulfilment of the pre-or- 
dained. Its return to earth is a dialectical movement as essen- 
tial as its ascent. To dwell in the universal is to repose, to die, 
whereas the life of the idea is "the bacchanalian revel, where 
not a member is sober; and because every member no sooner 
becomes detached than it eo ipso collapses straightway, the rev- 
el is just as much a state of transparent unbroken calm. 
Judged by that movement, the particular shapes which mind as- 
sumes do not indeed subsist any more than do determinate 
thoughts or ideas; but they are, all the same, as much positive 
and necessary moments, as negative and transitory/ 1 We re- 
peat: the universal is not the complete truth, but that phase of 
it in which the particular is dissolved and the process of transi- 
tion has been completed. The universal is pre-eternal or post- 
eternal repose, but the idea cannot endure in repose: it emerges 
of itself from the sphere of the universal into life. 

The complete trio grand iand harmonious is evidenced only in 
the history of the world. It is only in the latter that the idea 
of complete life abides. Outside of it lie only the abstractions 
striving for completion and clamouring for one another. 



92 A. II EH ZEN 

Thought and immediacy are the two negations which are re- 
solved in the process of history, their unity has been divided 
into opposites to be reunited in history, which transcends and 
realizes both nature and logics. In nature, everything is partic- 
ular, individual, exists ap-art and is but loosely linked by an 
essential tie. In nature, the idea exists corporeally, unconscious- 
ly, subjugated to the law of necessity and obscure impulses, 
not transcended by free reason. The reverse is true in science: 
the idea exists in the organism of logic, everything that is partic- 
ular is suppressed; eveiything is pervaded with the light of 
consciousness; the implicit thought agitating and impelling 
nature becomes, as it develops and frees itself from physical 
existence, the explicit thought of science. However complete 
science may be, its completeness is abstract and its relation to 
nature, negative. Of this science has itself been aware since the 
days of Descartes who clearly contrasted thought with fact, 
spirit with nature. Science and nature are two concave mirrors 
.reflecting one another. Their mutual focus, the point of converg- 
ence of both the world of nature and the world of logic is 
man's personality. Concentrating more and more upon one 
point, nature -arrives at the human ego. In the latter it achieves 
its aim. Now man's personality, opposing itself to nature and 
struggling with natural spontaneity, evolves within itself the 
generic, the eternal, the universal, the mind. And it is the con- 
summation of this development that is the iaim of science. 

The whole of man's past history consciously or subconscious- 
ly set itself the ideal of achieving intelligent self-cognition and 
of elevating the will of man to the plane of the will of God. 
Throughout the ages mankind has been striving for moral and 
free action. But in history there has never been such action and 
could not be. Free action in history must be preceded by science. 
Without knowledge, without complete cognition there can 
be no really free action and as yet there has been no such com- 
plete cognition in mankind's past. Science which is leading to 
it, justifies history and at the same time renounces it. Real 
action requires no antecedent for its justification; in history is 
Us soil, its immediacy. Everything that is antecedent is genet- 
ically essential, but self-existence and self-sufficiency will hold 
(heir place in the future just as in the past. The future will be 



DILETTANTISM IN SCIENCE 98 

to the past as the grown son to the father. To be born and grow 
up the son needs his father, but when he is a man their rela- 
tions must change, must grow freer, loftier and more affection- 
ate. Lessing once termed the evolution of mankind its up- 
bringing, an incorrect metaphor if unqualified, but apt enough 
within certain limits. And mankind, indeed, has hitherto dis- 
played the unmistakable signs of immaturity. It is gradually 
being educated into consciousness. The system of this education 
eludes the superficial glance for its diversity and exuberance of 
creative effort, for the superfluity of forms and forces ostensibly 
unnecessary and contradictory. But such is the instinctive way 
of the evolution of the natural, of the development of the uncon- 
scious to the conscious, to self-realization. Let us turn to na- 
ture. Unable to comprehend itself and tormented by this inabili- 
ty, striving for some goal unknown to itself and yet the source 
of its agitation, nature aspires to consciousness in thousands of 
forms, utilizes all possibilities, probes all directions, knocks on 
every gate, creates innumerable variations on the same theme; 
and therein lies the poetry of life, the evidence of its inner 
wealth. Every stage in the evolution of nature iat the same time 
represents a goal, a relative truth; it is a link in a chain and yet 
a precious ring in itself. Impelled by an obscure but great long- 
ing, nature rises from form to form, but, while passing from 
the one to the other, clings yet tenaciously to the first and devel- 
ops it to the ultimate as if salvation itself depended on this 
form. And indeed, the form achieved represents a great victory, 
a joy and triumph: it is always the supreme existent form. From 
it nature flowers in all directions.* That is why it was so useless 
to attempt to marshal all its creations in a rectilineal column. 
Niature knows no superiors or inferiors; its works do not consti- 
tute a mere ladder. Nature is both ladder and the things that 
are mounting the ladder and each and every step is the means 
and the goal and the cause. Idemque return naturae opus et re- 
rum ipse natura, as Pliny once said. 

The history of mankind is the continuation of the history of 
nature. The diversity and heterogeneity to be found in history 



* Button's great idea: La nature ne fait jamais un pas qui ne soit en tout 
sens. A.M. Nature never takes a step unless fully conscious of it. Ed. 



94 A. HER ZEN 

are astounding and little wonder that the ways of evolution 
have become more complex: the field has become broader, the 
problems loftier, the means more numerous, the purpose more 
explicit. The development grows more far-reaching and at the 
same time more complicated. The simplest state is that of the 
stone resting immobile at the lowest stage of development. But 
where consciousness begins moral freedom must begin and 
every personality effects its destiny in its own way, leaving the 
stamp of its individuality on the events. The nations, these vast 
and colossal characters of the world drama, perform the role of 
mankind each in its own way, imparting artistic finish and 
truthfulness to the action of the play. A nation would be a piti- 
ful thing indeed if it regarded its existence merely as ia step 
towards the unknown future. Such a nation could be compared 
to a drudge travelling an (arduous path and bearing upon itself 
the golden fleece to be shorn by others. Nature, as we have ob- 
served, does not treat its subconscious children in such a fa- 
shion; and especially in the world of consciousness where there 
can be no stage which fails to bring its own satisfaction. But 
the spirit of mankind, bearing within itself an undeviating aim, 
an eternal aspiration towards fuller development, could not 
rest content with any of the past forms. And herein lies the 
mystery of its transcendence, of its overlapping personality 
(ubergreifende Subjectivitat). Let us bear in mind, however, 
that every one of the past forms contained this spirit, and that 
this spirit had no other form but the one whose limits it exceed- 
ed just because it had grown equal to this form, had been iden- 
tical with it and had grown out of it. The history of the activity 
of the spirit is, so to say, its personality, for "it is what it 
does,"* the striving for absolute reconciliation, for the realiza- 
tion of everything in the mind, and for liberation from natural 
and artificial fetters. Absorbing and affecting the whole spirit 
of its age, every stage of history bears its own plenitude, in 
short, its own personality seething with life. 

Aware of their destiny to emerge on the world arena, the na- 
tions, as they heard the voice announcing that their hour had 
struck, were seized with fiery zeal and began to live with redou- 



* Philosoohie des Rechts.A.H. 



DILETTANTISM IN SCIENCE 95 

bled intensity and evinced such strength as no one could have 
suspected in them, strength which they themselves had never 
suspected. Towns and villages arose in the steppes and forests. 
The sciences and arts flourished; great efforts were made to pre- 
pare the luxurious caravanserais for the coming idea which, 
flowed on steadily, a majestic stream whose waters engulfed 
ever new spaces. Those caravanserais, however, were not 
merely to serve as a transient 'abode of the great idea, but as its 
inevitable incarnation, like the mother's womb which not only 
translates the past into the future, but is also alive with its 
own life. Every phase of historical evolution has been its own 
goal and consequently its own reward and gratification. To the 
Greek world its own destiny was something absolute, beyond 
the bounds of which it saw nothing; nor could it do so since 
there was as yet no future. The latter is a possibility and not an 
actuality, for it does not properly exist at all. The ideal of every 
epoch is the epoch itself purified of accidents; it is the transfig- 
ured view of the present. It stands to reason that the more 
complete and all-embracing is the present, the more true and 
universal is its ideal. And such an epoch is ours. Contemplat- 
ing the fulfilment of man's destiny, the nations were ignorant 
of the harmony combining all the sounds into a great sympho- 
ny. On the ruins of the ancient world Augustine announced the 
lofty idea of the divine city, towards which mankind was march- 
ing, and pointed to the holy Siabbath of tranquillity. That was 
the poetico-religious commencement of the philosophy of his- 
tory. It was obviously rooted in Christianity, but for ia long 
time not understood. It was no more than a century ago that 
mankind decided to demand an account of life, intuitively 
guessing that there is some purpose behind its onward move- 
ment and that its own biography has a single, profound, and 
all-embracing meaning. By this mature enquiry mankind has 
indicated that its education is nearly completed. Science took 
upon itself to reply to this enquiry, but scarcely did so when 
man felt an urge to seek an egress from science a second sign 
of maturity. Before it can be expected to open such an egress of 
its own accord, science must completely accomplish that which 
it is destined to accomplish. As long as there is but a single 
fixed point as yet eluding self-cognition the external will con- 



96 A. HERZEN 

tinue to resist. The number of such fixed stars is growing less 
and less, but there are some few which still remain. Education 
presupposes the complete and absolute truth. At the moment 
that man comprehends the truth, it shall be safely lodged in his 
heart; his education then will be completed and his conscious 
action will commence. With his head high, man will then depart 
from the temple of science, proudly conscious that omnia sua 
secum portans to erect the divine city. The reconciliation 
wrought in science by knowledge has cancelled the contradic- 
tions. Similarly the reconciliation in life will cancel them 
through beatitude.* The reconciliation in life is the fruit of 
another tree of Eden: but the new Adam has had to earn its 
apples by the sweat of his brow and this he has truly done. 

But how will all this come to be? What bearing has it upon 
the future? We may conjecture about the future because we are 
the premises of its syllogism, but we must do so only in a broad 
and general way. In the fulness of time the events will rend the 
Clouds like lightning, will strike down the obstacles, and the 
future shall spring forth new born and fully accoutred like Pal- 
las Athene. But, faith in the future is our noblest privilege, our 
inalienable blessing. Believing in the future we are filled with 
love for the present. 

And our faith in the future will save us from despair in the 
evil hour, and our love of the present will live in good deeds, 

March 23, 1843 



* Here one inevitably recalls the great idea of Spinoza: Beatitudo non 
est virtutis praemium, sed ipsa virtus. A.H. 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 17 



Nature is a bayadere dancing in the 
sight of the spirit, which rebukes her for the 
shamelessness with which she unfolds her 
nudity to all who would see. But having 
revealed herself she departs because she 
has been seen and the spectator departs 
because he has seen. 

Colebrooke, "Sank-hia, Philos. of the Hin- 
dus" 

. . .Doch der Gotterjungling hebet 
Aus der Flamme sich empor, 
Und in seinen Armen schwebet 
Die Geliebte mit hervor. 

Goethe. "Bayadere" 



LETTER ONE 

EMPIRICISM AND IDEALISM 

GLORY to Ceres, Pomona and all their kin! I find myself, at 
last, away from you, my dear friends. I am alone in the country. 
More than anything else I wanted to live quietly, iall by myself. 
But I cannot say that those worthy individuals whom I have 
just glorified, have particularly gone out of their way to receive 
me. It has been raining day and night with the wind tearing at 
the shutters so that it is impossible to take a step out of doors. 
Yet, strange as it may seem, I feel better. I am myself again 
and in better spirits. I have found what I came for. In the eve- 
ning I go out on to the balcony. Nothing obstructs the view. I 
inhale the damp, invigorating air, scented by the woods and 
meadows. I listen to the murmur of the forest and my heart is 
at peace. I feel finer and more cheerful. The meditative calm 

everywhere is soothing, conciliating At moments like these 

I feel that I could remain here for years on end. I can quite 
foresee that you won't like my idyllic vagary: "Man must not 

71157 



98 A. HERZEN 

isolate himself that is egotism, desertion, the trite idea of the 
mad Genevese 18 who held that urban life in his day was artifi- 
cial. As if the forms of the historic world were not just as natural 
as the forms of the physical world." Firstly, it is true that deser- 
tion in time of war is disgraceful; but why not take a holiday 
when a stable peace reigns happily on earth? Secondly, ias far 
as Rousseau is concerned, I cannot say that what he said about 
the (artificiality of life in the society of his day was absolutely 
untrue: that which is awkward, forced, decayed, is, indeed, ar- 
tificial. Rousseau understood that there was something rotten 
in the world in which he lived and impatient, indignant and out- 
raged as he was, he did not understand that the sanctuary of 
the decrepit civilization had two doors. Afraid of being stifled 
there, he rushed to the entrance and found himself frantically 
battling against the stream of people entering. He did not real- 
ize that the re-establishment of primitive life was more artificial 
than the existing dotage of civilization. It really does seem to 
me that our way of living, particularly in big cities no matter 
whether in London or Berlin is not very natural. Most likely 
it will change considerably. Mankind has never pledged itself 
to live always as it does today. Life in the process of develop- 
ment holds nothing sacred. I am perfectly aware that the forms 
of the historic world are just as natural as the forms of the phys- 
ical world. But do you know that in nature its-elf in this eter- 
nal present without regret or hopes all that is alive, continual- 
ly rejects past forms, as it develops, accusing the organism 
which was quite satisfactory just the day before of being un- 
natunal? Recall the metamorphosis of insects, the proverbial 
example of the butterfly and the chrysalis. When the present 
rests exclusively on the past, it is inadequately supported. Peter 
the Great demonstrated solemnly that the past, represented by 
a whole country, was untenable when opposed to the will of a 
single person, acting in the name of the present and the future. 
The judicial irony of long duration is not recognized by life; 
quite the contrary, all that long duration, from the viewpoint 
of nature, is entitled to, is death. 

As you see, I am in a mood to philosophize That is how 

the countryside far niente affects me. Let's drop this urban life! 
I never meant to speak of it. Since there is time I'd rather get 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 99 

started on those letters on the present state of natural science 
which I had once promised. 

Do you remember our interminable discussions in our student 
days? Starting usually from two abstract points of view we 
strove to understand the phenomenon of life but, far from at- 
taining any serious results, we couldn't even fully understand 
each other. That is how nature is treated by philosophy and natu- 
ral science, which both lay strange claims to being in posses- 
sion of, if not the whole truth, at least, the only true piath lead- 
ing to it. The former uttered its oracles from some inaccessible 
heights; the latter meekly submitted to experience and went no 
further. They hated each other and they developed, mistrusting 
each other. Many prejudices took root on both sides. So many 
bitter words were exchanged that, no matter how they tried, 
they have been unable to make it up to this day. Philosophy and 
natural science frighten each other with bugbears and ghosts 
which really are frightful and disheartening. Is it long since 
philosophy has ceased to (affirm that it has the power to invoke 
the essence, detached from the being, the general, the real, de- 
tached from the particular, the infinite preceding the finite, etc.? 
Positive sciences have little ghosts of their own. These are forces 
abstracted from action; properties accepted as the object it- 
self and, in general, all kinds of idols created out of concep- 
tions not yet understood: exempli gratia the vital force, the 
ether, the caloric, electric matter, and others. Everything possi- 
ble was done to prevent the two from understanding each other, 
and with perfect success. In the meantime it began to grow 
clear that philosophy without natural science was just as impos- 
sible as natural science without philosophy. To satisfy ourselves 
on this point let us turn to the present state of the physical 
sciences. It seems just brilliant. What one could hardly dream 
of at the end of the last century has been accomplished or is 
being accomplished before our very eyes. The small buds of or- 
ganic chemistry, geology, paleonthology, comparative anatomy 
have grown in our century into huge branches and borne fruit 
exceeding our wildest hopes. The world of the past, obedient to 
the mighty voice of science, has left the tomb to bear witness 
to the upheavals which accompany the evolution of the surface 
of the globe; the soil on which we live, this tombstone of the 



100 A. HER ZEN 

past life, Is growing transparent, as it were; the stone vaults 
have opened, the interior of the rocks could not retain their se- 
crets. Not only do the half-decayed, half-petrified vestiges again 
assume flesh, paleonthology also strives* to discover the law of 
the relation between geologic epochs and their complete flora 
and fauna. Then everything that ever lived will be resurrected 
in the human mind, will be saved from the sad fate of utter obliv- 
ion, and those whose bones have been completely decayed, 
whose phenomenal existence has been utterly obliterated, will 
be restored in the bright sanctuary of science where the tempo- 
ral finds its repose and is perpetuated. On the other hand, science 
has discovered a world of invisible details beyond the limits 
of the visible; science has discovered that monde des details 
which General Bonaparte conjectured in his conversations with 
Monge and Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire** in Cairo. The naturalist, 
equipped with the microscope, investigates life to the last detail 
and observes its inner workings. The physiologist has met the 
chemist on this threshold of life. The question of life has become 
clearer and is formulated more precisely. Chemistry has made 
it necessiary to investigate not only forms but also their modifi- 
cations. In the laboratory it led to an inquiry into the secrets of 
organic bodies. Apart from the progress made in theory the 
physical sciences were strikingly adapted to practice outside the 
study rooms and the academies. Hand in hand with mechanics 
these sciences have surrounded us with their inventions and 
amenities. They contribute to a solution of the most important 
social problems by the use of machines, by bringing into play 
unemployed and wasted forces and by simplifying complex and 
difficult productive processes, by indicating how to avoid the 
expenditure of more effort than is necessary to achieve the end: 
they give us the means for freeing the hands of man from end- 
less backbreaking toil. 

From this it would seem that all that is left for natural 
science to do is to celebrate its victory and, justifiably conscious 



* Remember the works of Agassiz 19 on fossil fish and the works of Or- 
bigny 20 on the mollusks and other protozoans. A//. 

** Notions de Philos. naturelle by Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, Paris, 1838, 
-A.H. 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 101 

of its great achievements, to continue working in the calm ex- 
pectancy of further success. Actually this is not quite so. A dis- 
cerning eye will easily see some constraint in all spheres of 
natural science. They lack something, something that the abun- 
dance of facts cannot make up for. Their truths have some blank 
spots. Every branch of natural science keeps us painfully aware 
that there is in nature something intangible, something we can- 
not grasp; that these sciences, in spite of ia profound study of 
their subject matter, allow us to acquire an almost but not quite 
complete knowledge of it. And it is precisely this deficiency, 
this elusive something that holds the solution destined to trans- 
form that insubordinate and alien element of nature into 
thought and, consequently, is to be assimilated by man. The 
consciousness of that fact has crept into the very exposition of 
natural science. You often hear the sad complaint accompanying 
successes and discoveries: the increase in knowledge which has 
no limit, and conditioned externally by accidental discoveries, 
by lucky experiments, sometimes oppresses the spirit rather 
than gladdens it. The fact that the object persists in remaining 
alien to the spirit and stubbornly resists man, irritates him and 
at the same time involves him in an unflagging war of conquest 
which he can neither win nor desist from. This is the clamour- 
ing voice of reason which does not know how to stop midway 
the voice of naturae rerum itself, which strives for clarification 
in the mind of man. You have probably noticed how quick natu- 
ralists are to call attention to the limits of their views as if fear- 
ful of hearing questions which they cannot answer; but such 
limits are illusory. Imposed as they are by personal will they 
are as external to the object as, say, the fence placed, by the 
right of ownership, to the field which it encloses. Naturalists of 
special fields loudly and boldly proclaim that the most natural 
and legitimate demands of reason iare no concern of theirs, that 
man must not study problems which are impossible to solve.* 
For the most part this boldness is suspicious: it either springs 
from narrow-mindedness or from laziness. In other cases it orig- 



Impossible for whom? When? Why? What is the criterion? Napoleon 
held that steamships were an impossibility A.M. 



102 A. HER ZEN 

inates on a higher plane, that is, that false consolation with 
wtfich man wants to blind his own eyes to an evil for which 
there is no remedy. Unfortunately, it is impossible to tie ia mill- 
stone to the neck of such problems, throw them into the sea and 
then forget them. They, like a guilty conscience, like the ghost 
of Banquo, come to haunt us at the feast of experiments, of dis- 
coveries, with the consciousness of real and magnificent' merits, 
reminding us that the success is imperfect, that the object has 

not been conquered Indeed, can we possibly be satisfied to 

stop at the supposition of the impossibility of knowledge? It is 
just as impossible for the man of science to stop at this point 
and forget as it is for the miser to stop searching for the treas- 
ure he knows is buried in his yard. There has never lived an emi- 
nent naturalist yet who could have tranquilly disregarded this 
gap in his science; a mysterious ignotum tormented them but 
they attributed its intangibility to lack of factual material. We 
think, however, that it is their timid and unconscious use of 
logical forms that hinders them more than anything else. Natu- 
raHsts recoil from an analysis of the relation of knowledge to 
the object, of thought to being, of man to nature. For them 
thought is the ability to decompose a given phenomenon and 
then to collate, generalize, tabulate the data found by them; 
their criterion of truth is not at all reason. It is, rather, the evi- 
dence of the senses which they rely on. Thought for them is lan 
act purely individual, absolutely external to the object. They 
ignore form and method because these they know from their 
scholastic definitions. Their fear of systematic theory is so great 
that they do not even want to accept materialism as a theory. 
They would like to treat their subject quite empirically, passive- 
ly, by merely observing it. It is obvious that no thinking being 
can achieve this any more than an organism can absorb food 
without digesting it. Their so-called empiricism leads, nonethe- 
less, to thought but to a mode of thought in which the method is 
arbitrary and personal. Strange as it may seem, every physiolo- 
gist knows well how important are forms and their evolution, 
and that content becomes a harmonious organism only on assum- 
ing a certain form. Yet it would not occur to any one of them 
that method in science is by no means a question of personal 
taste or some kind of external convenience; that over and labove 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 103 

its formal significance, it is the very development of content 
the embryology of truth, if you like. 

This strange syllogism of natural science has left its mark. 
The idealists have always been inveighing against the empiri- 
cists, trampling their doctrine with their incorporeal feet, with- 
out, however, advancing the question one step ahead. Strictly 
speaking, idealism has done nothing for the study of nature. 
This, however, calls for one reservation: it has elaborated, pre- 
pared infinite form, the infinite content of factual science. The 
latter has not, indeed, made use of it: that is the work of the 

future For the time being we speak, if not of the distant past, 

then of the passing moment. Idealism has always embodied 
something intolerably insolent: man, persuaded that nature is an 
absurdity and that the transient does not deserve his attention, 
grows arrogant, intransient in his one-sided views, and stone- 
blind to truth. Idealism believed, in its arrogance, that it needed 
only to utter some derogatory words .about empiricism for it to 
dissolve in thin air. The supercilious metaphysicians were mis- 
taken: they did not realize that empiricism was built on so broad 
a foundation that idealism would find it difficult to shake it. 
The empiricists have realized that the existence of an object 
is no trifle] that the interaction of the senses and the 
object is not an illusion; that the objects surrounding us 
cannot but be real if only because they exist; they turned confi- 
dently to what exists instead of seeking for what should exist 
but which, strangely enough, is to be found nowhere! They 
accepted the world and the senses with childlike simplicity and 
called upon people to descend from the hazy clouds where meta- 
physicians floundered in their scholastic incoherencies. They 
called to man to come down to the present land the real; they 
recalled that man has five senses on which his elementary rela- 
tion to nature is based, and they gave expression in their views 
to the first moments of sense perception the sole and indispen- 
sable precursor of thought. There can be no science without em- 
piricism, just as there can be no science in one-sided empiricism 
alone. Experience and speculation lare two essential, true, real 
phases of one and the same knowledge; speculation is nothing 
other than a higher, more developed form of empiricism. If you 



104 A. HER ZEN 

treat them as opposed to each other, in an exclusive and ab- 
stract sense, they will do no more good than will analysis with- 
out synthesis or synthesis without analysis. If it develops nor- 
mally, empiricism must invariably become speculation, while 
speculation is no empty idealism only if based on experience. 
Though chronologically the first phase of knowledge, experience 
has its limits. Beyond them it digresses from its path or else 
becomes speculation. These are two Magdeburg hemispheres 
which seek each other and which, once they are joined, cannot 
be pulled apart by all the king's horses. Although simple 
enough, this truth is far from having been recognized: the an- 
tagonism between empiricism and speculation, between natural 
science and philosophy persists. To understand that we must 
recall those times when natural science was divorced from phi- 
losophy. That happened in the grand epoch of the renaissance 
of science, when man, rejuvenated, became aware, once again, 
of the hot blood flowing in his veins and began to deliberate 
upon and study his environment. In those days all positive, 
practical minds chafed against scholasticism. As is usual in 
times of upheavals, they forgot all its merits and remembered 
only the heavy yoke it had laid on thought. They recalled how 
scholasticism, crushed, docile and submissive, occupied itself 
with empty, formal questions, and spurned it. The rebellion 
against Aristotle marked the rise of new, independent thought. 
We must not forget, however, that the Aristotle of the Middle 
Ages was not the original Aristotle but a tonsured one, adapted 
to Catholic morals. The canonized pagan had been disowned by 
both Descartes and Bacon. Note how scornfully the chemists of 
the eighteenth century disparaged the scholastic metaphysicians 
and how joyfully they proclaimed the right of experiment, obser- 
vation, empiricism; how they rejected absolutely everything out- 
side sense trustworthiness of the senses and trembled at the 
mere mention of the scholastic bonds. They felt better, more at 
ease, because their feet had touched the ground on which man 
is destined to stand. They had found the prop to lean against, 
their point of departure. They defended it zealously and went 
their slippery and arduous way. They were not afraid of hard 
work. The indisputable reality of their studies absorbed them. 
Nature, inexhaustibly rich in phenomena, could long quench 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 10& 

their thirst for knowledge. But, of course, they were bound to 
exhaust their conceptions for these were limited, and actually, 
they did so. However, their horror of scholasticism prevailed, 
and so they could not leave the circle which they themselves had 
circumscribed. Philosophy found it easier to* arrive at the true 
and real principles of logic than to repair its reputation. Inci- 
dentally, the latter could have been repaired only in our days, 
for the ferment of scholasticism is only now dissipating. Ideal- 
ism is nothing other than scholasticism of the Protestant world. 
It has always been just as one-sided ias empiricism; it never 
wanted to understand the latter but when it did, it superciliously 
stretched out an unwilling hand, dictated the conditions of the 
peace treaty and granted forgiveness though empiricism never 
even dreamed of asking for it. There is not the slightest doubt 
but that speculation and empiricism are equally to blame for 
their lack of mutual understanding, and the problem at the 
present moment is not to justify one side at the expense of the 
other but, after explaining how they came to engage in that 
battle so like the one in the celebrated parable of Menenius 
Agrippa, to prove that this is something to be relegated to the 
past and buried, and that it would be absurd and harmful for 
both sides to continue this struggle. Both philosophy and 
natural science have outgrown their mutual antagonisms. They 
possess everything to enable them to understand the origin of 
this conflict and its historic raison d'etre. Nothing but an in- 
herited feeling of enmity remains to support the antiquated and 
deplorable recriminations. They simply must have it out, they 
must settle, once and for all, their relations to each other, get 
rid of their antagonism. All exclusivism acts as a restraint and 
precludes free development. But if they are to come to an un- 
derstanding philosophy must renounce its gross claims to abso- 
lute power and perpetual infallibility. Philosophy has, truly, 
every right to the central place in science, and it can well profit 
by it when it ceases to demand it and openly rids itself of dual- 
ism, idealism, metaphysical abstraction, when its mature lan- 
guage stops shying at words or logical conclusions. Then its 
authority will have all the more weight since it will be truly 
recognized. Otherwise it may proclaim itself as absolute as it 
likes, no one will believe it, and each particular science will 



106 A, HERZEN 

nonetheless retain its own federal mentality.* Philosophy devel- 
ops nature and conscience a priori and herein lies its creative 
power; but nature and history lare great precisely because they 
do not require this a priori; they themselves represent living or- 
ganisms which develop logic a posteriori. Why quarrel about 
seniority? There is but one science: there cannot be two sciences, 
any more than there can be two universes. From time immemo- 
rial science has been compared to a ramifying tree. The compari- 
son is most apt: each branch of the tree, indeed every bud, is 
relatively independent. Each one can be taken for a distinct 
plant, but they all belong to a single whole, to the living growth 
of these plants to the tree. Cut off the branches and what re- 
mains is a dead log. Remove the trunk and the branches will 
wither away. Every branch of knowledge has a unity of its own, 
yet it invariably contains something pre-existent, independent. 
These branches are, properly speaking, organs belonging to one 
body. Separate an organ from the organism and it will cease 
to be the conductor of life and become a dead thing, while the 
organism, in its turn, deprived of the organs, will become a mu- 
tilated corpse, a conglomerate of particles. Life is the unity per- 
sisting in variety, the unity of the whole and the parts; when 
the bond between them is sundered iand the unity which serves 
to bind and protect is broken, each point starts on its own proc- 
ess and the death and decay of the corpse ensues with the com- 
plete liberation of the parts. Or here is another comparison. Par- 
ticular sciences may be likened to the world of planets with a 
focus to which they gravitate and from which they receive light. 
But, as we say that, we should bear in mind that light is the 
resultant of two factors and not of one: were there no planets 
there would be no sun. It is this organic interrelation between 
factual sciences and philosophy that is missing in the conscious- 
ness of some epochs, and then philosophy is engulfed in ab- 
stractions, while positive sciences are lost in the mass of facts. 
The limitations being what they are, ia way out must be found, 
sooner or later: empiricism will cease to fear thought; thought, 
in turn, will not recoil before the immobile strangeness of the 

* In history everything is relatively absolute. Non-relative absolute is 
a logical abstraction which becomes relative the moment it passes outside 
the bounds of logic. A.M. 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 107 

world of the phenomena. Only then will external reality be mus- 
tered, for neither abstract metaphysics, nor particular sciences 
alone can cope with the task: it is speculative philosophy, 
brought up on empiricism, that is the only crucible where every- 
thing melts. Particular sciences are finite. They are limited by 
two pre-existent factors: the object placed firmly outside the ob- 
server and the personality of the observer directly opposite the 
object. Philosophy cancels the opposition between the personali- 
ty and the object through logic, yet, while doing so, it preserves 
both. Philosophy is the unity of individual sciences. They are 
confluent in it and feed it. The idea that philosophy stands apart 
from science originated in the present age. This view is tfie 
baleful after-effect of dualism; it is, indeed, one of the deepest 
cuts of its scalpel. The ancients knew no such unlawful contest 
between philosophy and the individual sciences; they emerged 
hand in hand from Ionia and attained their apotheosis in Aris- 
totle.* Dualism, which lent glory to scholasticism, contained the 
seeds of the inevitable division into abstract idealism and ab- 
stract empiricism; its merciless blade sought to sepiarate the 
inseparable: the generic and the individual, life and the living, 
thought and the thinker. Nothing remained on the other side, or, 
what is worse, what remained were phantoms, taken for reality. 
Philosophy, not sustained by the particular sciences, by empir- 
icism, is a phantom, metaphysics, idealism. Empiricism suffi- 
cient unto itself, outside the bounds of philosophy, is a cata- 
logue, a lexicon, an inventory or, if not these, then it is false to 
itself. We shall see this directly. 

What immediately strikes us in the physical sciences is that 
naturalists only verbally keep within the domain of empiricism. 
Actually they never stay within its confines. They overstep the, 
limits of experimental knowledge without realizing it. It is im- 
possible to find one's way if one works unconsciously within 
the sphere of science. In order to actually cross the bounds of 
some logical moment one must, at least, know exactly the limits 
of the exhausted form: nothing in the world is so confusing as 
the unconscious transition from one logical moment to another. 



* Socrates regarded the physical sciences very much as our philologists 
do, but that was a passing misunderstanding. A#. 



108 A. HER ZEN 

So long as natural science actually keeps within the bounds of 
empiricism, it daguerreotypes nature perfectly iand translates 
reality, the particular, the phenomenal, into general terms. This is 
a detailed iand necessary cadastre of the immovables of science. 
The material thus obtained is capable of further development 
which, however, may not take place for a long time to come. It 
is, indeed, difficult, almost impossible to remain within the con- 
fines of such empiricism. It demands extraordinary self-restraint 
and extraordinary self-denial, the genius of Cuvieror the obtuse- 
ness of some mediocre specialist. Naturalists who are so assid- 
uous and loud in their praise of experience soon grow bored 
by its descriptive part. They are clearly loath to confine them- 
selves to conscientious cataloguing. They sense that this is not 
science and try to commingle thought and experience, to bring 
the light of reason wherever it still remains dark. It is at this 
point, as a rule, that they become entangled and lost in catego- 
ries obscure to them. They grope about, fearful lest the object 
obtained through the testimony of their senses should escape 
them and unaware that it has long since been modified. They 
are afraid to put their trust in thought and, involuntarily carried 
away by the tide of dialectics, they decompose the object into its 
opposite definitions and grow incapable of uniting the elements 
thus dissociated. The tendency to go beyond the bounds of em- 
piricism is perfectly natural, for one-sidedness is repugnant to 
the human spirit. The strictly empiricist attitude to nature is 
characteristic of the animal which regards its environment 
merely practically; it is not content with a passive examination of 
natural products it either consumes them or leaves them. Man 
has ian irresistible urge to ascend from experience to the com- 
plete assimilation of all that is provided by knowledge other- 
wise this becomes a burden; he has to endure it, which is incom- 
patible with a free spirit. That is why the inveterate enemies of 
logic and philosophy could not escape their own theoretical vi- 
sions which were, sometimes, no less absurd than the most 
transcendental fdealism. Did not the chemists have their "quin~ 
ta essentia"* their "universal gas," their own theories of the 

* Quintessence, the "very essence," literally, the "fifth essence*' opposed 
In ancient Greek philosophy to the other four elements water, earth, fire 
and air. Ed. 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 109 

origin of things, their theory of metals, their theory of phlogis- 
ton, and so on? The truth is that man is more at home in the 
world of theoretical meditations than in the multiplicity of 
facts. To be sure, the collection of material and its study and 
analysis are exceedingly important; but a body of facts not 
treated by thought leaves the mind unsatisfied. Facts and infor- 
mation are the evidence necessary for the case in hand the 
trial and the sentence must needs follow; the jury will consider 
the evidence and then have their say. Facts are only a collection 
of uniform material, and not a living growth, however complete 
the sum of the various parts. Empiricists, realizing this instinc- 
tively, turn to abstract reasoning, thinking thus to grasp the 
whole part by part. That is how they lose the object, existing 
in reality, and replace it by abstractions, existing only in the 
mind. If they unreservedly trusted thought it would lead them 
out of the one-sidedness through that same dialectic necessity 
which compelled them to turn from immediate being to specu- 
lative meditations. They would realize the finite character of 
their knowledge, iand the absurdity of stopping short amid the 
endless alternation of cause and effect, every cause becoming 
the next moment an effect and every effect a cause, amid the 
strange dissociation of form and content, of force and its mani- 
festation, of essence and being. However, they place no con- 
fidence in thought. Seeing that their endeavours to attain truth 
through reason are vain, they grow, indeed, even more preju- 
diced against all thought; they repent having wasted time outside 
the empirical sphere. But why then do they resort to logic with- 
out first analyzing its meaning? They think that if they switch 
from empiricism to speculation their object remains intact; but 
classification into abstract categories cannot tackle the object 
as it is: reason, like a galvanic battery, is either idle or, if it 
does work, breaks up everything into two opposite elements, re- 
gardless of the result. Reason is unilateral; it is a component 
part. It is to this misty sphere of reason that the empiricists 
have risen and there have stopped short. Yet this sphere is only 
a point of transition, a path to be traversed. If they had but un- 
derstood the meaning of national science the phantom barrier 
between experience and speculation would have disappeared of 
itself. As it is, modern empiricism and philosophy look at each 



110 A. HER ZEN 

oth^r precisely through this barrier and get a distorted vision 
of each other. Empiricism blames thought itself for the abortive, 
ineffectual rationalistic truth it has encountered while phi- 
losophy lays the blame upon experimental knowledge. It is 
worse, however, to stop short at reflection than at empiricism. 
Everything in the physical sciences that is absurd and ridicu- 
lous actually originates in extrinsic reasoning and explanatory 
theories.* 



* I intend to cite subsequently several striking examples of the theoret- 
ical absurdities of the positive sciences; for the time being I shall just 
mention the courses in physics delivered by Biot, Lame, Gay-Lussac, De- 
prez, Pouillet, etc., etc. Chemistry is principally concerned with practical 
matters; its subject matter is more concrete, more empirical. Physics, on 
the contrary, is more abstract in the questions it treats and therefore it is 
the triumph of hypothetical, explanatory theories (i.e., of such as are known 
beforehand as being so much twaddle). In physics the empirical object dis- 
appears from the very outset; only the general attributes, such as matter 
or force, appear. Then some external agents are introduced: electricity, 
magnetism, etc. An attempt was made to personify even poor heat as calor- 
ic the anthropomorphism of nature in the Greek manner, but dry and 
graceless. And the theory of light? There are two opposing theories of light, 
to b^gin with. Both have been rejected, and both have been recognized! For 
there are phenomena which can be explained either by the former or by the 
latter. And what don't they call it: a fluid, a force, an imponderable! How 
can it be a fluid if it is imponderable even if a light fluid? Why, then, not 
call granite a superheavy fluid? What a wretched definition of impondera- 
bility! Why not mention its being odourless, too, then? Force is no better. 
Why not say that light is action? Everything on earth can be attributed to 
force, as a sufficient cause. Why does no one call sound either a fluid or 
force (although Gassendi has mentioned the atoms of sound)? Why does 
no one call the outline of a body its imponderable form? To this the objec- 
tion may arise that form is inherent to a body; while sound is the vibration 
of air. Yet has anyone ever seen the entire set of imponderabilium outside 
the body existing independently? "Well," they say, "but these are simply 
provisional definitions to keep us from going astray; we ourselves don't set 
store by these theories." Very well, but a time will come when it will be 
necessary to consider seriously the meaning of phenomena and stop merely 
playing with them. If, for practical purposes, we resort to unsound hypothe- 
ses, we will finally be led completely astray. This method does tremendous 
harm to pupils, for it offers them words in place of conceptions, and kills 
their curiosity by supplying an illusory answer. "What is electricity?" An 
imponderable fluid. Surely it would be better for a pupil to answer: "I don't 
knowr-A//. 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 111 

Naturalists who have arrived at the stage of speculation im- 
agine that analysis, analogy and, finally, induction, as a further 
development of the first two, are the only ways of cognizing 
the object without modifying it, which is exactly what is both 
needless and impossible. Firstly, analysis leaves nothing behind 
in the object in question, land ends by reducing the material 
supplied by empiricism to abstract generalities. Analysis is 
right: it accomplishes its task. It is those who resort to analysis 
yet fail to consider its effect and transcend it who are in the 
wrong. Secondly, the desire to leave an object intact and un- 
derstand it without resolving it in thought is illogical and, in- 
deed, absurd. A particular object, a phenomenon, remains intact 
if man regards it unthinkingly, if he is indifferent to it. The in- 
stant he has given it a name, he has taken it out of the world 
of particularities and raised it to the level of a generality. How 
can we cognize phenomena without drawing them into the logi- 
cal process (without adding anything of our own, so to say)? 
The logical process is the only general medium of human cogni- 
tion. Nature does not contain its meaning within itself therein 
lies its distinctive feature. It is thought that supplements and 
develops nature which is nothing but existence and has to de- 
tach itself, so to say, from itself in man's mind in order to com- 
prehend its own being. Thought adds nothing external but 
merely continues the necessary development without which the 
universe would be incomplete that same development which 
begins with the struggle of the elements and chemical affinity 
and ends in the self-cognizant brain of man. There is a tenden- 
cy to perceive the mind as a passive receptacle, a kind of mirror 
which would reflect the given without modifying it, i.e., with all 
its fortuities and without assimilating it mechanically, un- 
reflectingly. On the other hand, the given is perceived ias exist- 
ing in time and space, as an active principle which is absolute- 
ly contrary to the nature of things. That is exactly why natu- 
ralists have never succeeded. For all their desire to walk on 
their heads they are still on their feet. To explain an object ex- 
ternially is, in fact, tantamount to admitting that it is beyond 
understanding. To explain it by means of comparison is some- 
times very useful but, for the most part, inadequate. No one re- 
sorts to analogies if he can express his thoughts clearly and 



112 A. HERZEN 

simply. There is good reason for the French saying that "co/n- 
paraison n'est pas raison." Indeed, from a strictly logical point 
of view neither the object nor the conception of the object is the 
least concerned whether it resembles something else or not: the 
fact that two things resemble each other in certain of their as- 
pects is no reason for concluding that their unknown aspects 
are also alike. What ridiculous mistakes, for example, geology 
made when it tried to apply facts, deduced from a study of the 
Alps, to other zones! The working of a known general law is to 
be examined in every particular case not only by comparing this 
case with other phenomena, but also out of logical necessity. 
Frequently analogy replaces one empirical representation by 
another, or, to put it bluntly, throws dust in your eyes. For 
example, you are expecting an explanation of how the main seat 
of sensation transmits to the nerve, and it, in turn, to the mus- 
cles, the impulse of your soul, and you iare given, instead, the 
picture of a musician, taut strings transmitting the fantasy of 
the artist, etc. The simple question is made complex. This ana- 
logy can again be reduced to yet another one, and the initial 
object is completely lost sight of for its similarity. This is like 
the method by which the portrait of a man is converted through 
a series of like replicas into the picture of a fruit. Or like those 
concepts, artificially simplified, supposedly to make them plain- 
er as, for instance: "If we imagine that a ray of light consists 
of an endless number of globules of ether, contingent upon each 

other " Now why should I imagine that the light of the sun 

falls on me in the same way that children roll marbles when I 
am sure that it is not so? Such hypotheses, i.e., conventional 
untruths, are habitually resorted to in the physical sciences to 
explain phenomena. But the assumed lie does not remain exte- 
rior to the explanation (otherwise there would be no need for 
it), but penetrates it, and what we get in place of truth is a con- 
coction of empirical truth iand a logical lie. This lie, sooner or 
later, is exposed and rightly makes us doubt the truth to which 
it is joined. Chemistry and physics assume the existence of 
atoms some twenty years ago atoms were the basis of all chem- 
ical investigations. However, in assuming their existence, you 
are warned, usually on the first page, that the naturalist is not 
really interested in whether or not the body is really made up 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 113 

of corpuscles, indivisible and invisible yet possessing the prop- 
erties, volume and weight. These were admitted just for the 
sake of convenience. Such half-hearted assumption only de- 
means their theory. They are responsible for the acrimonious- 
ness of the earlier attacks, by philosophy on atomism, for the 
latter was offered to the philosopher's view in that mean form 
to be found in all introductions to courses in physics and chem- 
istry. Atomists of antiquity didn't trifle with atoms; their point 
of departure, though one-sided, was, however, indispensable in 
the general development, and they arrived at atomism harmo- 
niously and consistently. They opposed the atom to the Eleatic 
conception which dissolved all that existed in abstractions. 
Atoms, according to them, were the universal centralization of 
substance, its infinite individualization, the being-for-itself of 
every point, so to say. This is one of the truest, most essential 
aspects of the understanding of nature: it necessarily contains 
this divisibility and integrity of each part, no less than its con- 
tinuity and unity. Naturally, atomism does not exhaust the con- 
ception of nature (in this it resembles dynamism); in atomism 
universal unity disappears while in dynamism the parts are 
obliterated and annulled. The task consists in fusing all these 
existing-for-self sparks into one .single fliame, without depriving 
them of their relative independence. Dynamism and atomism 
made their grandiose appearance at the beginning of our era as 
the all-absorbing substance of Spinoza and the monadology of 
Leibnitz, two majestic mileposts, two Herculean pillars of re- 
generated thought erected not to hinder further progress but to 
make it impossible to turn back. We shall yet have occasion to 
speak in our letters of monadology, of the atoms of Gassendi, 
but this alone will suffice to show you that atomism was no 
joking matter for thinkers and that behind atoms lay thought, 
truth. Atomism was the conviction, the belief of Leucippus, De- 
mocritus iand others. Now, physicists, at the outstart, conceded 
that their theory may be an absurdity, but one that makes 
things easier to grasp. And why do they renounce atoms and 
show a readiness to admit that, perhaps, matter is not, after all, 
composed of latoms? Thanks to that same amiable reason of 
sloth and indifference with which they accept any hypothesis. 
Speaking frankly, that is what we can call cynicism in science. 

81157 



114 A. HERZEN 

Volcanoes may yet erupt bodies, says Pouillet, in which atoms 
will be visible. What, then, does Pouillet associate the term 
"atom" with? Yet there we have mathematics, the guardian and 
benefactor of physics, which points so logically, so clearly, to a 
rational conception of such abstractions. Mathematics says that 
the line is an infinite multitude of points, placed in a fixed or- 
der; it accepts the possibility of dividing space ad infinitum, but 
it means not the actual but the abstract possibility of divisibili- 
ty; even more, it also implies the necessary extent and thester- 
eometricity of actual form; it consciously takes a point, a line, 
a surface within the limits it knows. That is why you will not 
find a single mathematician who expects to see tan aerolite with 
visible points or with a surface which would detach itself from 
the body. That is why a mathematician will never undertake 
an experiment to prove infinite divisibility by peeling mica, or 
dropping ink into a barrel of water and then frightening chil- 
dren with the calculations as to how much ink one drop of this 
water contains. He knows that if infinite divisibility were actual- 
ly possible it would not be infinite. Undoubtedly mathematics 
has advanced in thought much further than physics has. Infini- 
tesimal calculus amply proves it. Mathematics could not com- 
pletely efface its kinship to logic. One -should not forget (as 
mathematicians do) that beginning with Pythagoras this science 
was mainly developed by philosophers: it was Descartes, Leib- 
nitz and even Kant who gave it a new lease of life, and it was 
by no means an accident that Leibnitz passed from monadology 
to differentials. . . However, let us return to our subject. 

Naturalists are ready to experiment, work or travel and even 
risk their lives, but not to worry their bnains with reflections on 
their science. We have seen the reason for this cogito-phobia: 
the abstract nature of philosophy, ever ready to sink into scho- 
lastic mysticism or hollow metaphysics; its affected self-suf- 
ficiency and its smugness, shunning nature, experience, and 
history had inevitably to repel the adherents of natural science. 
But, since all one-sidedness yields tares along with the fruit, 
so the niatural sciences had to pay for their narrow-mindedness, 
even though the latter was due to a similar fault in the opposite 
camp. The fear to put their trust in thought and the impossibil- 
ity of attaining knowledge without thought left its mark on their 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 116 

theories: they are subjective, flimsy, inadequate. Every new dis- 
covery threatens to bring them toppling down; they cannot de- 
velop and are replaced by new theories. By accepting every 
theory as a personal affair, extrinsic to the object, as a conven- 
ient arrangement of particulars, naturalists throw open the 
doors to fatal scepticism and, sometimes, to astonishing absur- 
dities. Thus, for example, there is nothing surprising in the ap- 
pearance of homeopathy in itself: there have always been strange 
attempts at tail times and in all branches of knowledge to 
create new doctrines which contained a small truth husked in a 
big lie. Nor is it surprising that ladies and paradoxical minds 
took a liking for being treated with these grains. They believed 
in homeopathy exactly because it was so improbable. But how 
to explain the split among the learned physicians some ten 
years ago? Homeopathic hospitals were built, magazines were 
published and the book catalogues had a special section: "//o- 
moopathische Arzneikunde" The reason is always one and the 
same: medicine, like all the natural sciences, rich as it is in 
data obtained from observation, has not attained that degree of 
development which the human spirit aspires to in its search for 
the living source of truth which alone could satisfy it. Natural- 
ists and physicians always claim that they cannot afford to 
think of theory for they still have not collected all the facts nor 
made all the experiments, etc. The collected material may, in- 
deed, be insufficient that is even most likely the case. But, 
when you say that there is an infinite multitude of facts and 
that no matter how many of them you collect you still will never 
reach the last of them, that is still no reason for not formu- 
lating the question adequately and developing real demands, 
true conceptions of the relation between thought and being.* 
The accumulation of facts and an exhaustive study of their 
meaning in no wiay contradict each other. Every living thing, 
as it develops, grows in two senses: it expands in volume and 
at the siame time it is centralized. External development means 

* Although Alexander the Great did send Aristotle all kinds of animals, 
the latter, however, was probably less acquainted with them than was La- 
marck, a fact which did not prevent him from dividing the animals into 
Schorophora and Nematophora, which corresponds with Vertebrata and 
Avertebrata of Lamarck. A.H. 

8* 



,116 A. HERZEN 

.internal development. A child grows physically and intellec- 
tually. Both forms of development are indispensable to each 
other and one of them dominates the other only if there is a 
one-sided over-development. Science is a living organism 
which allows the essence of things disengaged in man to 
develop to the point of complete self-cognition. Science, too, 
undergoes -a twofold development: ian external growth in the 
form of experiments and observations this is the nourish- 
ment without which it could not survive. But what is acquired 
externally must be processed by an internal principle which 
alone imparts life and meaning to the crystallizing mass of 
information. Facts; like the deposits in ia solution, iaccrue 
steadily and slowly, grain by grain; they accumulate without 
losing anything previously acquired, ever ready to accept the 
new without, however, doing anything more than merely 
receiving it. It is an endless progressive evolution, ia rectilineal 
movement, infinite and passive, which, at one and the same 
time, both assuages :and increases the thirst because one series 
of details opens up a vista of another, etc. This method, taken 
atone, does not lead to complete and true knowledge, yet it is 
the only path of the experimental sciences. 

Now reason, under normal conditions, develops self-cogni- 
tion. Enriched with information it discovers in itself that ideal 
point toward which everything converges; that infinite form 
which will use iall that has been acquired for its own plastic 
self-realization, that vitalizing monad which powerfully 
compels the rectilineal and infinite ptath of aimless empirical 
development to curve around itself and sets it a goal not 
outside itself, but within itself: for nowhere else but there can 
man uncover the truth of existence, iand this truth is he him- 
self as reason, ias thought in development to which empirical 
information converges from all sides in order to find its 
original and ultimate expression. This reason, this essential 
truth, this developing self-cognition, whether it be called 
philosophy, logic, science or simply human thought, specula- 
tive empiricism, or whatever you like continually transforms 
empirical facts into clear, distinct thought, -assimilates ail 
manifestations of existence, bringing its idea to light. Man 
has no categories to aid him in attaining understanding save 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 117^ 

those of reason; special sciences, in taking up arms against 
logic, have borrowed the latter's own weapons, and, indeed, its 
very mistakes.* 

This strange relation between the natural sciences and 
thought cannot continue for long: the wealth of facts ac- 
cumulated necessarily clarifies their views. They must 
inevitably decide, frankly and seriously, the question of the 
relation between thought and being, of natural science and 
philosophy, and declare resolutely whether it is possible or 
not to cognize truth. Either natural science should acknowl- 
edge that the mind of man is so constituted that it accepts an 
illusion as truth, seeming truth, as such and cannot know 
completely, or can know only subjectively and that, therefore, 
human knowledge is something in the nature of a generic 
madness. After that nothing is left but to fold one's hands, 
like Sextus Empiricus, and, with -a supercilious smile, to say: 
"What nonsense all this is!" Or else, natural science must 
fully realize that such a view is repulsive, that human reason 
stands not outside nature but is nature's cognizance of itself, 
and that man's mind is, in fact, unique and true, as everything 
in nature is true and real in different degrees. They must 
realize finally that the laws of thought are the cognized laws 
of being and that, consequently, thought in no way -embarrasses 
existence but, indeed, liberates it; that it is not because man is 
intelligent and because he carries his intelligence into every- 
thing but, on the contrary, he is intelligent because every- 
thing in nature is intelligent. Once man has realized this, he 
will have to discard that absurd antagonism with philosophy. 
We have said that experimental sciences had every right to 
turn their back on the philosophy of the past; but this one- 
sided phase, historically very important, is in its death throes 
if it has not passed out altogether. That philosophy which was 
incapable of recognizing and understanding empiricism and, 
what is even worse, was able to get along without it, was as 
cold as ice and inhumanly austere. The laws which it dis- 
covered were so comprehensive that all the particular elements 

* Thus, abstract forces, causes, polarization, repulsion and attraction 
have all come to physics from logic, from mathematics and, since they were 
accepted uncritically and haphazardly, have lost their real meaning. A.H. 



118 A. HER ZEN 

were lost in it. It could not throw off its dualism and ultimately 
found its way out: went half-way to meet empiricism, while 
dualism humbly quit the scene in the robes of romantic ideal- 
ism, a piteous thing, poor iand anaemic, nourished with the 
blood of others. This school is the last representative of Refor- 
mation scholasticism. It vainly aspires to something not of 
this world, something inaccessible, non-existent, to those beau- 
tiful immaterial fern-ales, towards those disembodied, ardent 
embraces, to feelings without a heart to feel. And of this 
school it will soon be said, ias Kozlov said of his mad heroine: 

She kept waiting and waiting, 
And then died before he came. 

Thinkers and naturalists have awakened to the fact that 
they will get nowhere without each other. Frequently their 
principal issues unwittingly happen to coincide and identical 
questions arise. What then prevents them from coming to a 
complete understanding? Sloth, ready-made conceptions, 
prejudices transmitted from generation to generation and 
strongly ingrained on both sides. Prejudice is a long chain 
confining man within a fixed, limited circle of rigid concep- 
tions; the ear and the eye have grown accustomed to them, and 
absurdities, enjoying the rights acquired by usage, become 
generally-accepted truths. Are they worth the trouble of 
analysis? Isn't it simpler, without examination or scrutiny, to 
repeat inherited opinions which, perhaps, were relatively true 
in their day but which have outlived their truth? Guild 
scholars iand philosophers acquire ia certain set of conceptions, 
a definite routine which they cannot shake off. In their student 
days they take for granted the first principles iand give them no 
further thought. They are certain that they are done with this 
ABC to which it would be ridiculous and unnecessary to 
return. Definitions, classifications, iand scholastic terms trans- 
mitted from generation to generation confuse the good sense 
and clear mind of the beginner so that he cannot discard them 
for a long time to come and frequently for ever. Don't 
imagine that only limited minds pay tribute to the prejudices 
of their caste far from it! When Goethe discovered, described 
and sketched the human intermaxillary bone of man, the cele- 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 119 

braled Gamper said to him: "That is iall very well, but the os 
intermaxillare isn't to be found in the human jaw." Referring 
to this incident Goethe oould not help adding:* "It may, 
perhaps, be termed youthful impudence when an uninitiated 
pupil diares to contradict \a piast master of his profession and 
tries to prove that he, nevertheless, is right; but many years cf 
experience have taught me to look at it differently. Phrases 
repeated without end, fix themselves in the mind, and finally 
grow to be unalterable convictions, while the organs of intui- 
tion grow dulled. There have been oases of masters in their 
craft (Handwerk) who sometimes deviated somewhat from the 
beaten path, but they never left the highway; they were afraid 
of new paths. They believed that it would, nonetheless, be safer 
to stick to the old." "A newcomer," he wrote elsewhere, "is not 
tied down; his healthy eye can immediately discern that which 
the iaccustomed eye will no longer see." Not only do the 
naturalists truckle to habit ;and to usage; they are also checked 
or impeded by their singular conception of their personal 
rights in science: they invent truth as they would a new type 
of cannon shells. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, a man of genius, 
felt, undoubtedly much more clearly than others, the need to 
place natural science on a firm foundation. He touched upon 
the constructive idea, the universal type, the unity within the 
diversity of the works of nature, etc. But, mind you, he strove 
to do this without taking into account the generic thought of 
mankind. He imagined that all that was .a private invention oi 
his own and claimed a monopoly on it. In the same fashion 
every reasoning naturalist invents a principle, -assumes ia few 
leading ideas which particularly please him, then consistent- 
ly introduces them throughout his book and there you have a 
ready theory. The result of the complete separation of natural 
science from philosophy often means many years of labour 
before they arrive at an approximate formulation of the law 
long known in another sphere, before they dissipate doubts 
which have long been eliminated. They toil land moil to 
rediscover America, they blaze the trail where a railway is 
already functioning. That is the result of the disunity of 

* Goethe's Werke, Vol. XXXVI, Zur Osteologie, etc. AJi. 



120 ' A. HER ZEN 

science, of this feudalism which throws up a rampart around 
every strip of land and coins its own money behind it. The 
philosopher ignores facts and prides himself on his ignorance 
of practical -affairs. No sooner does he -deign to descend from 
his universal Laws to the particular, i.e., to reality, than he is 
lost. Now, for the empiricist the reverse is true. 

However, with the break of our century the word reconcilia- 
tion has become current. With good reason, too. The mist is 
beginning to dissipate. The review of the main stages in this 
reconciliation will be the subject matter of the letters to come. 
For the time being, I shall offer some remarks of a general 
nature. 

Towards the end of the eighteenth century a revolution was 
seething in the quiet of study-rooms, in the heads of thinkers, 
a revolution as formidable and violent as the one in the polit- 
ical world. The mental state was frightful to imagine: every- 
thing around was tottering social morals, the conception of 
good >and evil, faith in nature, in man, in creeds iand, instead 
of consolation, critical philosophy iand sceptical empiricism 
were served up. Two unbeliefs, two scepticisms and ruins ( all 
around. Critical philosophy dealt idealism a terrific blow; hard 
as empiricism had struggled against idealism, the latter had, 
nonetheless, withstood the attack. But a man emerged from its 
own midst whose blows brought it to the brink of the grave. 
This man was truly great in his implacable, incorruptible 
logic; his rupture with dogmatism was deep and deliberate. 
Truth was his only goal iand he stopped at nothing in his 
search. He set up those terrible Caudine Forks called anti- 
nomies and dispassionately made the most sacred thoughts 
of man run that gauntlet. After Kant it wias impossible to 
resurrect idealism completely, save, perhaps, in some particular 
aspects; everybody bowed low to the might of his genius. But 
such views were hard to bear. Strong as Fichte's stoic breast 
was, it could not yet withstand them. The impossibility of 
attaining absolute knowledge laid an impassable barrier be- 
tween man and truth. Such conception was enough to drive one 
mad or desperate. Herder and Jacobi tried to save some ideas 
so dear to them from the Kantian shipwreck but emotions are 
* weak support in a battle with logic. At long last a man was 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 121 

found who had an adamantine breast and could safely and 
quietly oppose his profound realism to critical philosophy. 
That man was Goethe. He was extraordinarily endowed with 
an immediate perception of things. He knew that and examined 
everything independently. He was not a college philosopher, 
nor a specialized scholar he wias a thinking artist. He was the 
first to re-establish the true relation of mian to the world 
around him. He set a great example to naturalists. Without 
superfluous preparations he plunged directly in medias res. 
In this he is the empiricist, the observer. But just watch how 
the conception of the given subject grows and develops out of 
his observation, how it unfolds, depending on its existence 
and how, finally, ia universal and profound idea is born. If you 
read Metamorphose der Pflanzen, or his articles on osteology, 
you will immediately realize what a true understanding of nature 
really means, what speculative empiricism* is. For him thought 
and nature are aus einem Guss: "Oben die Geister and unten der 
Stein." For Goethe nature is life, that very life which is in him 
and that is why he understands it so well. Even more, nature 
speaks to us through his lips iand herself initiates us into her 
mysteries. After him came ia voice out of the domain^of abstract 
science, which defined truth as the unity of existence and 
thought. This voice orientated philosophy toward nature as to 
some indispensable complement, as to its mirror. Magnificent 
was the spectacle of mankind, returning to earth, represented 
by its foremost members, the poet-thinker and the thinker-poet, 
clinging to the bosom of Mother Earth. That was both the 
return of the prodigal son and the rescue of the metaphysician 
from the pit into which he had fallen. 

Schellrng did nothing but point out the road, as Virgil did 
to Dante, but his manner of doing so showed the stamp of 
genius. Schelling has one of those great and artistic natures 
which attains the truth spontaneously, instinctively, through 
inspiration. There was always something in him akin to Plato 
and Jacob Boehme. This way to knowledge is the secret of 
genius and not of science. It is a secret he cannot pass on any 
more than the artist his secret of creation. But his inspired 

* I am enclosing in the second letter a small article by Goethe written 
by him in 1780. A.M. 



322 A. HERZEN 

voice leads to truth and to understanding by calling for the in- 
born sympathy of man far truth. Schelling is the vates of 
science. In his letters to Schiller he wrote that he was quite 
unable to develop his thoughts in strictly, scientific form. 
Goethe knew himself to be what he reially wtas. He taught by 
means of facts. Supremely practical, he was able to get down 
to details without losing sight of the whole. Schelling, on the 
contrary, considered himself an essentially philosophical, 
speculative nature, and for that reason he tried to stifle his 
intuitive sympathy and prescience in scholastic forms; he 
overcame his own idealism in words but not in fact. How im- 
practical and unrealistic his nature was is most clearly evident 
from the fact that he, while studying primarily natural phi- 
losophy, never engaged in a positive study of any one branch 
of natural science. His erudition was colossal but it was an 
encyclopaedia of natural science. He was a dilettante of genius. 
Goethe could, for example, be a specialist when the need 
arose now a student in the anatomical theatre, now <a keen 
observer or -a draughtsman. He worked, carried on experiments, 
made a practical study of osteology for years. He knew that 
without specialization the general theory would smack of 
idealism, that one's own observation in the natural sciences 
is as important as the reading of sources in history: that is 
why he could suddenly, unexpectedly, discover a whole world 
or a completely new aspect of his subject. The empiricists 
never renounced Goethe: all his great ideas were accepted and 
appreciated by them,* while they neither understood nor 
recognized Schelling who held a hand out to them on behalf 
of philosophy. Naturalists, followers of Schelling, accepted the 
formal side of his -doctrine; but they did not grasp the spirit of 
his writings. They failed to fan the sparks of profound reflec- 
tion, scattered about in his writings, into bright flames. Rather 
they erected some strange metaphysical-sentimental edifice 
out of his views. They combined sterile scholasticism with 
purely German Gemutlichkeit. Not that they had expounded 



* For example, his idea that the cranium is the result of the evolution 
of vertebrates; the metamorphosis of parts of the plant; the intermaxillare, 
and a hundred other remarks on osteology. See Geoffrey Saint-Hilaire, de 
Candolle, and others. A.M. 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 123 

Schelling' s natural philosophy either scientifically or system- 
atically: they took two, three general cut-and-dry formulas, 
and fitted all phenomena, the whole universe to them. These 
formulas are like the standards in the recruiting station: no 
matter who goes in, he comes out ia soldier. Even those phi- 
losophers of nature who contributed greatly through the practi- 
cal part of their science neither avoided formalism nor sen- 
timentalism. Take, for example, Carus. His contribution to 
physiology was tremendous but his general remarks, his in- 
troductions! What verbosity, what ideas! It is painful to see 
so serious a man compromising himself to such an extent. 
Even Oken, though superior to all the others, cannot be ac- 
cepted without reservations. Nature, as conceived by Oken, is a 
cramped and inconvenient pliace to be in : and, besides, he is as 
dogmatic ias the others. The idea, extensive and all-embracing, 
is there but Oken is to blame precisely because it is discernible 
as -an idea, and nature seems to exist solely to bear it out. The 
study of nature in Oken's works lays claim, in the German 
manner, to the absolute, to consummated larchitectonics. 
Recall the remark made :above that idealism becomes 'accessible 
to nothing but its own idee fixe; it has not enough respect for 
the world of facts to submit to its objections. 

I don't remember where and when I read an article by 
Edgar Quinet on German philosophy. The article in itself was 
not of the best but it contained a delightful comparison be- 
tween German philosophy and the French Revolution. Kant 
was compared with Mirabeau, Fichte with Robespierre, and 
Schilling with Napoleon. On the whole this comparison is true 
to some -extent. I, too, am inclined to compare Schelling with 
Napoleon, only in ia wiay opposite to the one used by Edgar 
Quinet. Neither the empire of Napoleon nor the philosophy of 
Schelling was able to maintain itself and for one >and the same 
reason: neither the one nor the other was perfectly organized; 
neither had the strength to reject the one-sidedness of the past, 
nor to go on to the extreme conclusion. Both Napoleon and 
Schelling proclaimed to the world the reconciliation of op- 
posites <and their cancellation by a new order of things. In the 
name of this new order of things Bonaparte was crowned 
emperor. The smoke of guns, however, could not, in the end, 



124 A. HERZEN 

hide the fact that Napoleon had remained, iat heart, a man of 
the past. The historical masquerade a la Charlemagne for 
which Napoleon donned so unsuitable a dress, and surrounded 
himself with his duke-soldiers wias an intermedia buffa, to be 
followed by Waterloo, with a genuine duke in commiand. 
Schelling, in his domain, followed in Napoleon's footsteps: he 
promised the reconciliation of thought and being; but, having 
proclaimed the reconciliation of opposite trends in a supreme 
unity, he remained an idealist iat ia time when Oken instituted 
Schelling's rule over the whole polity of nature, and the Isis 91 
le Moniteur of natural philosophy trumpeted forth its 
victories. Disguised as Jacob Boehme, Schelling began to 
foment a reaction to his own theories partly to avoid admitting 
to himself that others had left him behind. Schelling was a 
Boehme stood up on his head, just as Napoleon was a Charle- 
magne similarly placed. That was the worst that might have 
happened because it wias extremely ridiculous. Jacob Boehme, 
full of mystical reflection, attains at all points profound phi- 
losophical views. If his language is difficult and fettered by 
mystical scholastic terminology, all the more honour to his 
genius which could express the immensity of his thoughts in 
this -awkward language. Though he lived at the beginning of 
the sixteenth century, he had the firmness to go beyond narrow 
formalism, and the courage to accept the consequences, appal- 
ling to the timid conscience of his century. Far from crushing 
his powerful intellect, mysticism rather lent it wings. 
Schelling, quite the contrary, sought to descend from 
profound scientific reflection to mystic somnambulism, to 
cipher thought into hieroglyphs. This led to most deplorable 
results: people who were truly religious and people who were 
unreligious both repudiated him and ceded him a little Elba 22 
in the University of Berlin. Oken has remained alone with his 
Isis. The vain struggle with naturalists, their disagreeable 
manner of basing their objections on facts, has made him 
bitter and capricious. He is loiath to discuss his system with 
foreigners; he has known the epoch at its apogee, and if he is 
now working at something, it is only in silence. Let us hope, 
at least, that he will not essay to write a book in zoology in 
verse as Schelliner planned to do for his theorv. Whatever 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 125 

success has been achieved in the sphere of natural science was 
done so outside natural philosophy. The empiricists did not 
trust it, shunning its difficult language, its general views, its 
practical inclinations, its exalted sentimentality. Cuvier 
warned the Paris Academy of Sciences against theories coming 
from beyond the Rhine. Cousin was even more outspoken, 
warning in his lectures against the spread of idtalism in 
France. Incidentally, the French are endowed with so just a 
view of things that it is impossible to lead them astray. They 
will soon comprehend German wisdom. It is certainly not 
because the French are obtuse that German science has not 
crossed the Rhine. 

The first instance of <a scientific exposition of natural science 
is Hegel's Encyclopaedia. His doctrine, steadfast and rigorous- 
ly consistent, is almost contemporary with that of Schelling's 
(he gave his first lecture on natural philosophy in 1804 in 
Jema). Hegel is the last of that brilliant constellation of think- 
ers of which Descartes and Spinoza were the first. Hegel set 
the limits beyond which German science will not go, iand his 
doctrine points clearly to an egress out of it and, indeed, an 
egress out of any dualism and metaphysics. That was the 
ultimate, the mightiest effort of pure reason, so true and 
realistic that, in spite of itself, it continually became every- 
where the thought of actuality. The austere outlines, the 
gnanite-bound stages of the Encyclopaedia no more limit its 
contents than the ship's railing hinders the eye from rovingover 
the vast spaces of the sea. True, Hegel's logic retains all its 
claims to unchallenged power over other spheres, to an ex- 
clusive completeness ready to meet all exigencies. He seems 
to lose sight of the fact that logic is precisely not the com- 
pleteness of life because it has curbed it within its-elf, because 
it has abstracted itself from the transient; it is accordingly 
abstract iand contains only what is eternal. It is abstract 
because it is absolute; it is the knowledge of being but not 
being itself; it is above it and therein lies its one-sidedness. 
If it were enough for nature to know, as Hegel inadvertently 
admits at times, then on attaining self-cognition it would 
cancel its existence and ignore it; but, in fact, existence is as 
dear to it ias knowledge. It loves life but life is possible only 



126 A. HERZEN 

in a bacchic whirl of the transient; while in the sphere of the 
general, the tumult and the eddies of life calm down. The 
human genius wavers between these opposites; like Charon 
it keeps ferrying back iand forth from the temporal abode to 
the eternal one. This crossing, this -alternation is history and 
this is what matters, after all, and not just crossing to the 
other side *and living in the abstract and universal spheres of 
pure thought. Nor did Hegel alone understand this. Leibnitz, 
a century -and ia half earlier, said that unless the monad had a 
transient, ultimate existence it would dissolve in the infinite 
and completely lose the possibility of asserting itself. All of 
Hegel's logic discloses that the absolute is the confirmation of 
the unity of being and thought. But no sooner do Hegel and 
Leibnitz get down to the crux of the matter than they both lay 
iall that is temporal and existing on the altar of thought and 
spirit. The idealism in which Hegel was educated, which he 
drank in with his mother's milk, drags him back to that one- 
sidedness which he himself had executed. He strives to sup- 
press nature by means of logic, by means of the spirit. He is 
apt to consider every particular work of nature as a phantom, 
and look down upon every natural phenomenon. 

Hegel begins with the abstract so as to arrive at concrete 
spheres; but the former presupposes the concrete from which 
they have been abstracted. He develops the absolute idea, and 
having brought it up to the point of self-cognition, he makes 
it appear in the transient existence. The latter, however, was 
superfluous, for the required result had been obtained without 
resorting to it. Hegel discovered that nature, life, develops in 
accordance with the laws of logic. He traced this parallelism 
phase by phase. Unlike Schelling's general remarks, rhapsod- 
ic and desultory, the result here was -a harmonious, profound 
system engraved in bronze, every stroke a testimonial of his 
gigantic force. Hegel, however, treated nature and history as 
applied logic rather than logic as the abstract wisdom of 
nature tand history. For that reason empirical science remained, 
with perfect equanimity, just as deaf to Hegel's Encyclopaedia 
as to Schelling's dissertations. We cannot contest the per- 
spicuity and true judgement of these unfortunate empiricists 
so insolently ridiculed by idealism. Empiricism was an open 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 127 

protest, ia bold challenge to idealism and such it remained. No 
matter what idealism did empiricism foiled it. Not a step did 
it retreat.* When Schelling propounded his philosophy, a large 
number of philosophers thought that the time had come to 
marry the science of thought to the positive sciences. The 
empiricists remained silent. Hegel's philosophy brought about 
this reconciliation in logic, took it as ia basis and developed it 
through .all the domains of spirit and nature, subjecting them 
to logic. The empiricists continued their silence. They saw that 
the original sin of scholasticism had not yet been completely 
condoned. Hegel had undoubtedly raised thought to heights 
at which it was impossible to take another step without leav- 
ing idealism completely behind. This step, however, has not 
been taken and empiricism is still waiting for it imperturbably. 
But when it is actually taken it will mean the infusion of new 
life into all the abstract spheres of human knowledge! Empir- 
icism, elephant-like, advances forward slowly but surely. 

It is absurd not only to blame Hegel, but even Schelling for 
the fact that, having accomplished so much, they did not iac- 
complish still more. That would be historical ingratitude. 
However, we cannot but admit !hal just as Schelling did not 
crown any of his conceptions with a single true consequence 
so, too, Hegel failed to deduce all the direct 'and outspoken 
results of his principles impliciter, they are all merely pre- 
existent in his doctrine. All that was -accomplished tafter Hegel 
was the development of what Hegel had left undeveloped. He 
understood the true relation between thought and being, but 
this does not yet mean the complete renunciation of the old; it 
has remained in the morals, language, and habits. He 
understood his -abstractedness through his own abstractions 
and was content with this. No one born in Egyptian captivity 
entered the Promised Land, for his blood was tainted by 
slavery. Hegel, by his genius, by the power of his intellect, 
wiped out the Egyptian taint in himself, and what little 
remained of it wias more a bad habit than anything else. Now, 

* We scarcely need repeat that empiricism is absurd when it goes to 
extremes, that its creeping on all fours is just as comical a sight as the 
bat-like flights of idealism; an extreme always causes the corresponding 
extreme on the opposite side. A.M. 



128 A. HERZEN 

Schelling succumbed to it. Goethe neither had to suppress it 
nor succumb to it. 

However, I suppose I ought to wind up. 

I confess that when I sat down to write to you I did not 
quite realize how difficult a problem I had tackled, how in- 
adequate were my ability and my knowledge and how great a 
responsibility my task imposed on me. Once launched on the 
task it became obvious that I was not in & position to carry 
out my plan. However, I shall not put down my pen. If I cannot 
do what I set out to, I will at least be satisfied if I can arouse 
a desire to acquire ia clear and consistent knowledge of what 
I shall treat desultorily iand incompletely. The value of such 
Vorstudien, as these letters, is only of an introductory 
character. They will constitute a general introduction to the 
main questions of modern science; eliminating false .and 
inexact ideas, obsolete prejudices and making science more 
accessible. Science seems difficult not because it really is so, 
but because you cannot get at its simplicity without first 
breaking through the wall of ready conceptions which obstruct 
a direct view of things. Let those who enter these spheres 
know that the entire larsenal of rusty iand useless weapons in- 
herited from scholasticism tare good for nothing; that we must 
sacrifice those artificial views, that unless we first discard all 
the half-lies with which the half-truths are clothed to make 
them easier to understand, we cannot enter the domain of 
science and (arrive lat the full truth. 

The fundamental principles are not my own: they belong to 
the modern view on science and their mighty spokesmen. My 
only contribution is the exposition and good will. This reminds 
me of an emigrant prince who, if I am not mistaken, remarked 
as he distributed snuff-boxes iand rings sent to him by Empress 
Catherine in Mitau: "De ma part ce n'est qae le mouvement 
du bras et la bonne volonte"* I repeat his words.** 



* On my part it's only a movement of the hands and good will. Ed. 
** It might not be amiss to call the readers' attention to the fact that 
the words: "idealism," "metaphysics," "abstraction," "theory" have been 
used in their extreme meaning, where they are false, exceptional. Now, if 
we take these words in a more general sense, apart from their historical 
implications, that is, put ideal definitions in their place, they will become 



LETTKHS ON THE STUDY OF NATUKK 12!) 

LETTER TWO 

SCIENCE AND NATURE 
THE PHENOMENOLOGY OF THOUGHT 

LET us BEGIN ab ovo. There are reasons enough for this. Lei me 
indicate them. In order to understand that logical stage of the 
development of science -at which natural science finds itself in 
our day, it is not enough to make brief mention of several of the 
most outstanding facts, some principles laid down by modern 
science, or some deductions which give it* essence. Nothing 
has injured philosophy so much as ready-made conclusions 
torn out of their context, accepted nominally, devoid of all 
sense and repeated with arbitrary interpretations. Words do 
not express the full content of thought -and of iall the mental 
processes leading to it to such an extent as to be able, in the 
condensed form of final conclusions, -to bring home to everyone 
their real and true meaning. On-c has to arrive 'at this mean- 
ing; the process of its development is cancelled, and only 
found in the conclusion in a final ski to. The latter expresses 
only Hie crux of (he nr-ilter; it KS a title of a kind placed at the 
ond; separated thus from the entire organism it is either useless 
or harmful. What is the good of an equation of some line to 
a man who does not know algebra, even though this equation 

something quite different: however, I beg you lo keep in mind th.il that is 
not the meaning I attacii lo them For me these words are mottoes, ban- 
ners of a biased \iew which immediately localizes the sore spot Of course, 
Aristotle did not use the word "metaphysics"* 1 in that sense. Tvery per- 
son who regards nature not as the source of food supply, but as some- 
thing to be studied, can be called a mclaphysicist, just ,is every thinking 
person an idealist. So I felt duty bound to explain my use of these words 
If they irritate the reader, lei him put others in their place--//' jond tic la 
chose remains unchanged and that is all that matters One more remark: 
Hegel's views are neither accepted nor known in positive sciences His 
method is barely known in France, vet Hegelism has had a gieat influence 
on natural science Naturalists cannot discover the source of tins influence but 
it is evident in Liebig, in Burdach, Raspail and in many others, even though 
most of them will probably disavow what we have said They do not reali/e 
how it happened that they have taken from the environment the trend 
they have given science. I shall try, in one of my later letters, to prove 
what I have just said. A.M. 

91157 



ISO A. HER ZEN 

contains all the necessary elements: its laws, construction and 
all possible cases? They exist only for those who know how 
equations are formed, i.e., for those who know the steps lead- 
ing to the formula implied by it and Latent in it. For them 
every sign means a certain order of notions. The whole truth 
is contained in a general formula. But a general formula is not 
that medium in which truth can develop freely quite the 
reverse is the case: it is condensed, concentrated within it. 
A seed is just such ia concentration of a pliant: yet no one 
mistakes the seed for the plant. No one will seat himself in 
the shade of the acorn although it contains within itself more 
than a grown oak does a series of piast and ia series of future 
oaks. It is sometimes possible to make use of the results 
arrived at without going into an explanation of their meaning. 
That happens when one is certain beforehand that the same 
words define the same conceptions, which are something 
generally accepted, pre-existent and constitute the links be- 
tween the speaker and his audience. In a period of transition, 
such certainty is possible only in communication with close 
friends. For the most p,art those who speak in behalf of science 
imagine that the entire process which they discern so plainly 
behind the formal expressions, is known to their audience, and 
they proceed with their discourse, while every individual gives 
free reign to his personal opinions or beliefs and the words 
uttered stimulate him not to mental activity but rather lawaken 
these sluggish and obsolete prejudices. Therefore, I pnay, do 
not complain if I begin with a definition of science and with 
a general review of its development. 

The office of science is to raise everything that exists into 
thought. Thought strives to understand, to assimilate the 
object outside it land sets forth with a denial of what renders 
it external, different, opposed to thought; in other words, with 
a denial of the immediacy of the object it generalizes the 
object, after which thought treats it as a generality iand seeks 
to understand it as such. To understand an object means to 
discover the necessity of its contents, to justify its existence, 
its development. What has been recognized by us as necessary 
and reasonable is no longer alien to us: it has already become 
ia clear idea of the object. That idea which we have conceived 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 131 

and comprehended belongs to us and we are conscious of it 
because it is reasonable and man is reasonable and there is 
but one reason.* We cannot comprehend what is irrational, 
but then it is not worth the trouble of understanding: it must 
necessarily prove to be not essential, not true. It turns out to 
be (using school language) something impossible to prove, for 
proof consists only in demonstrating the .necessity that the 
object is essential, that it is rational, -and what is rational is 
recognized by man. Man seeks no other criterion: justification 
by the intellect is the highest instance, admitting no further 
appeal. It goes without saying that the idea of an object does 
not belong exclusively to the thinker; he has not introduced 
it into reality he only realized it. It pre-existed as latent 
reason, in the immediate existence of the object, as its right 
to existence, revealed in time and space, as the law pnactical- 
ly executed, testifying to its indivisible unity with existence. 
Thinking disengages thought existing in time iand space for 
the medium of consciousness, more appropriate to it. It, so to 
say, arouses thought out of its state of comia in which it is 
still plunged, incarnated in matter and existing through mere 
being. The idea of an object is disengaged not in the object 
itself: it is disengaged in an immaterial form, generalized, 
freed from its fortuitous character in the domain of conscious- 
ness, this reason of the universal. The object existence of 
thought, regenerated in the domain of reason and self-cogni- 
tion, goes on as before, in time and space; thought 



* The idea of there being several reasons is an absurdity which is be- 
yond not only human understanding, but even of the imagination of the 
human mind. If we, for example, admit the possibility of two reasons, then 
what is true for one will be false for the other otherwise they would not 
be different. At the same time, each of the reasons has the right to regard 
its truth as authentic, and this right has been recognized by us when we 
recognize two reasons. If we say that only one of them understands the 
truth, then the other reason will already be not reason but madness. Two 
different reasons, in possession of different truths, call to mind those humiliat- 
ing cases of two persons taking contradictory oaths. A different understand- 
ing of an object does not mean that the reasons are different but, firstly, 
that people are different and, secondly, that truth is defined differently, from 
different aspects, by one and the same reason depending on the develop- 
ment of the latter. 

9* 



132 A. II E R Z E X 

has received a twofold life: one being its previous, particular, 
positive existence determined by the material world; the other 
of ia universal character, determined by consciousness and 
the negation of it -as a particular. The object is first completely 
outside of human thought; the personal mental activity of man 
begins by his search into what the truth and reason of it 
consist in. As thought divorces the object (and itself) of all 
that is particular and" fortuitous, as it penetrates further into 
the reason of the object, it discovers that the latter is also its 
own reason. In its search for ihe truth of the object it finds 
this truth within itself, The more the idea develops, the greater 
is its independence and autonomy in respect both to the person 
of the thinker and to the object. It links them together, cancels 
the difference between them by means of a supreme unity, 
rests on them and free, self-sufficient, autonomous, prevails 
over them, thus fusing two one-sided elements into one 
harmonious whole.* The whole process of the development of 
the idea of an object by means of the thought of humankind 
from crude and irreconcilable contradictions between the 
person and the object down to the cancellation of the contradic- 
tions by the consciousness of the supreme unity in which they 
are two mutually indispensable poles this whole series of 
forms which disengage the truth contained in the two extremes 
(the person and the object) from their mutual limitation by 
disclosing and realizing their unity in reason, in the idea- 
this is what constitutes the organism of science. 

Many regard science as something external to the object, 
something (arbitrarily chosen and invented by humans, and 
consequently they conclude that knowledge is invalid, or 
even impossible. Certainly, science does not lie in the material 
existence of the object; undoubtedly, it is the free activity of 
thought, notably, human thought. But that does not mean that 
science is an arbitrary creation of chance individuals, external 
to the object studied. If it were that, science would be, as we 
have said, a generic madness. A limited category outside 
existence could not be attached to -thought; it is not essential 



* That is to say, existence as the only being-in-itself, and consciousness 
as the only being-for-itself.A.H. 



LETTERS OX TIIK STUDY OF NATURE 13& 

to it; thought has no confined, intransmutable determinate- 
ness either here or there, it needs no alibi. If you want to 
use this category then you must reverse the expression iand s-ay 
that the immediate object is outside of thought because it 
actually constitutes its externality. Nature is not only external 
to us, it is in itself only an externality; its thought, its con- 
sciousness, come into their own, appear not in it but in the 
other (i.e., in man). Now, the generic destination of man is 
to constitute truth both of himself ,and of the other (i.e., of 
nature). Consciousness is self-cognition; it commences with 
the cognition of itself as otherness and ends in self-cognition 
as such. Consciousness is by no means external to nature, it 
is rather the highest stage of its development, the transition 
from positive, indivisible existence in time and space, through 
the negative, divided definition of man as opposed to nature, 
and up to the revelation of their true unity. Whence and how 
could consciousness external to nature and, consequently, :alien 
to the object have arisen? Man is not external to nature but is 
only relatively opposed to it, and not actually. If nature really 
contradicted reason, then everything material would be absurd 
and purposeless. We are accustomed to fence of! the world of 
mian from the world of nature by a stone wall. Unjustly so. 
Indeed, there are no strictly fixed boundaries and limits, to the 
great chagrin of all systematizers. In this case they, more- 
over, overlook that man has a universal duty of his own to 
perform in this same nature, and that is, to complete its eleva- 
tion into thought. Man iand mature are as opposite as are the 
two poles of a miagnet, or rather, as the flower is opposite to 
the stalk, as the youth is to the infant. All that is not developed 
and is wanting in nature, exists and is developed in man. 
Wherein, then, lies their real opposition? They iare unequal 
and impossible antagonists. Nature has no power over thought, 
while in thought lies the power of man. Nature is like a Greek 
statue all its latent power, all its thought lie in its outward 
form. Everything that it could express it did, leaving it to mtan 
to discover what it did not. Nature is related to man as <an 
indispensable 'antecedent, a presupposition (Voraussetzung)\ 
man, is related to nature ias ian indispensable consequence, as 
a conclusion (Schluss). The life of nature is a continuous 



134 A. HER ZEN 

development through which what is abstract, simple, in- 
complete and elemental becomes concrete, complete and 
complex. It is the development of the germ by the differentia- 
tion of all that is contained within its conception iand the con- 
tinual effort to bring this development to the most perfect 
harmony between form and content; that is the dialectics of 
the physical world. Man is the acme of all (aspirations, all the 
efforts of nature. It is towards him they strive iand into him 
they fall like rivers into an ocean. What can be more auda- 
cious than the hypothesis that human consciousness the final 
conclusion crowning the evolution of nature is at variance 
with it? Everything in the world is harmonious, coherent, pur- 
poseful and only our thought is something apart, something like 
an errant comet, an absolutely irrelevant malady of the 
brain. 

If thought is to be represented as something unniatural, 
quite exterior to the object, a particular and personal property 
of man, it must be detached from its genealogy. But is it 
possible to understand the connection iand significance of any- 
thing whatever if we arbitrarily take the extreme links? Gan 
we understand the relation between a stone iand a bird? Even 
if we trace it step by step, it is easy to go astray. But if we 
haphazardly choose two elements iand juxtapose them in order 
to arrive at their connection, we will be confronted by a 
difficult, thankless 'and almost insolvable task: that is how 
nature and its connection with man, with thought, is regarded. 
Ordinarily, when one takes up the question of mature it is 
dismantled from its material basis. It is told, as once Joshua 

told the sun: "Sun, stand thou still " But nature cannot 

stand still. It is 'a process; it is a current, a flux, a motion; it 
will slip through the fingers; in the womb it will become a 
human being and will break through the dam before you are 
able to pass from it to the world of man: 

Ewig natiirlich bewegende Kraft 
Gottlieb, gesetzlich entbindet and schafft; 
Trennendes Leben, im Leben Verein, 
Oben die Geister und unten der Stein. 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 13 

If you halted nature for a single instant, as something dead, 
not only would you -not arrive at the possibility of thought, 
you would not even attain the possibilities of infusoria, polyps 
and moss. Examine nature as it is iand you will see that it is 
in motion; give it full scope, look into its biography, into the 
history of its development and only then will you get a 
coherent picture of it. The history of thought is the continuation 
of the history of nature: neither mankind nor mature can be 
understood apart from their historical development. What 
distinguishes these histories from each other is that nature 
remembers nothing it has no past, while man bears within 
himself all his past, both individual iand generic. History links 
nature to logic without it they fall apart. The reason of 
nature lies only in its existence the existence of logic consists 
exclusively in reason. Neither nature nor logic can suffer, 
neither is tormented by doubts or contradictions. The former 
has not reached that stage, the latter has transcended them, 
Herein lies their antagonistic incompleteness. History is the 
passionate, dramatic epic of the transition from nature tc 
logic wherein the immediate becomes the conscious, while 
eternal thought is cast into transient existence: its agents are 
not general categories, not abstract norms, as they are in 
logic, nor meek slaves as are the works of nature; they are 
personalities embodying these eternal norms and fighting 
against fate indifferently brooding over nature. Thought, 
historically, is the generic activity of mankind, a vital and 
true science. It is that universal thought which, by itself, has 
undergone the entire morphology of nature and has insensibly 
arrived at the consciousness of its own validity. In ever}/ 
epoch its knowledge and conceptions crystallize in the regulai 
shape of abstract theory, independent and absolute, which 
represents formal science. Each time thought lays claim to being 
the consummation of human knowledge, but it merely draws 
up the final report and formulates the result of thought of a 
certain epoch; it regards itself alone as absolute, whereas in 
reality what is absolute is that movement which impels con- 
sciousness ever onward. Logical development goes through the 
same stages, as nature and history. Like the aberration of the 
stars in the firmament, they repeat the movement of the earth, 



136 A. IIKRZEN 

Hence, you can see that fundamentally, it is iall the same 
whether we expound the process of self-cognition either from 
a logical or historical viewpoint. We shall take the latter. We 
find the -austere, lucid, self-satisfied course of logic less con- 
genial: history is an enthusiastic struggle, the triumphant 
march out of Egyptian captivity to the Promised Land. The 
victory is assured in advance in logic which is conscious of 
its power, its irresistible force. That is not the case for history 
and that is why the exultant paean of joy will ring out when 
the Red Sea recedes to lot our posterity pass through and will 
deluge Pharaoh's outworn and unjust claims. Logic is more 
reasonable, history more humane. No view can be more 
erroneous than the one which disregards the past by means 
of which the present is attained as if this evolution were a 
mere scaffolding covering no intrinsic values. If that were so 
history would be humiliating: an unending sacrifice of the 
present to the future. The present of the human spirit embraces 
and preserves the entire past, which has not merely passed by 
it, but has developed into it. The past was not lost in (he pres- 
ent or replaced by it but found its fulfilment in the present. 
What is false, illusory, inessential is only transient; or rather 
it never really existed, it was still-born- death does riot 
exist for what is true. There is good reason why poets comp-are 
the human spirit to the sea: like the sen it guards ,all the 
wealth once fallen into its depths. Only what is too feeble 
to withstand the salinity of its waters vanishes without a 
trace. 

Thus, if we are to understand the present slate of thought, 
the best path to follow is one which will show how mankind 
reached it, to review the morphology of thought: from its 
instinctive, unconscious peace with nature, preceding thought, 
down to the -nascent possibility of complete and conscious 
peace with itself. We shall have to start by reconstructing 
those steps which have been almost completely obliterated 
because mankind does not know how to preserve what it has 
done unthinkingly. The instinctive lingers in its memory as a 
vague dream of childhood! However, that is no reason for 
your assuming that I am going to serve up to you The Death 
of Abel a la Gessner 2 * or the Savage Man of the Encyclo- 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 137 

paedists. My object is much simpler: it seeks to determine the 
necessary point of departure of historical consciousness. 

Outside man there is a multitude of particularities, varied 
to ian infinite degree and interwoven in a confused manner. 
Their external dependence, hinting at 'an internal unity, their 
fixed reciprocal interaction, is almost lost entirely amid for- 
tuitous elements which disperse, regroup, conserve and 
annihilate "this heap of parts receding into the infinite," as 
Leibnitz so admirably put it. These elements are characterized 
by -self-sufficient independence of man; they existed before him 
and they showed no concern for him after he appeared; they are 
unending, unlimited: they continue to arise land disappear 
everywhere. From the point of view of reason this cyclone, this 
vortex, this disorder, this rebellious spirit of his environment 
should have struck man with horror and dismay, should have 
crushed him and filled his heart with despair. But, confronted 
with nature for the first time, man regarded it with childlike 
simplicity; he had no distinct notion of things; he did not 
retreat yet from the world in which he found himself; negation 
had not yet awakened in his mind, and that is why he felt at 
home and, head raised high, his gaze met everything in the 
world about him mulazzlcd. This empirical trust is possessed 
by thetanimal but there it stops. Man, however, is not long in 
perceiving that this confidence is inadequate, that he feels 
himself master of his environment. These particularities which 
exist unlinked among themselves lack something; they disinte- 
grate >and disappear rapidly without leaving a trace behind. 
It is man who gives them a pivotal point and this point is 
man himself. By means of his word man wrenches them out 
of the vortex in which they <are swept away and vanish; in 
giving them a name man recognizes their existence, 
regenerates them in himself, doubles them and immediately 
introduces them into the sphere of the universal. We are so 
accustomed to the word that we forget the magnitude of this 
grandiose act the ascension of man on the throne of the 
universe. Nature without mian to give it a name is something 
mute, incomplete, a failure, an avorte. Man has blessed it by 
giving meaning to its existence, he has recreated it and made 
it articulate. There was a good reason for Plato growing so 



138 A. HER ZEN 

ecstatic about man's eyes contemplating the heavens and find- 
ing them more magnificent than the firmament itself. Animals, 
too, can see and emit sounds <and both these acts tare great 
triumphs of life; but when man sees and speaks the disordered 
mass of particularities ceases to be a conglomeration of ac- 
cidental things iand stands revealed as a harmonious whole, 
an integral organism. It is noteworthy that also in this period 
of spontaneous harmony with nature, when reason, that sword 
of negation, had not yet severed man from the soil on which 
he grew up, mian did not recognize the autonomy of particular 
phenomena. Everywhere man played the role of master, 
considering it within his right to take possession of all that 
surrounded him and subject it to his will. He regarded 
inanimate objects as slaves, as organs outside his body, belong- 
ing to him. We can impose our will only on something which 
has no will of its own or whose will we refuse to recognize; 
once we assign our aim to someone else that means either that 
we regard his aim ias unimportant or else regard ourselves as 
his aim. 

Man bad so little regard for the rights of nature that he 
destroyed everything that stood in his way without the 
slightest compunction. He made use of whatever he liked. Like 
Hessler he forced the Swiss to construct the Zwing-Uri where 
they themselves were to be confined. He harnessed the forces 
of mature, opposing one agiainst the other. Nature not only did 
not frighten man by its immensity and infinitude ia thing 
which he did not pay the least attention to, leaving it to the 
future rhetoricians of all ages to terrify themselves and others 
with myriads of worlds and all quantitative immeasurables 
and not even by the calamities which it involuntarily heaped 
on the heads of people. Nowhere do we see man bend the knee 
before the obtuse 'and external force of the world. Quite the 
contrary, man recoils from its chaotic and disordered nature 
and kneels in ecstatic and fervent prayer to the divine. No 
matter how crude was the image man gave to the supreme 
being, the divine spirit, he invariably saw it ias the embodi- 
ment of truth, wisdom, reason, justice reigning over iand con- 
quering the material aspect of existence. Belief in the universal 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 139 

power of Providence makes it impossible to believe in chaos 
and fortuity. 

Man could not long remain in primordial concord with 
nature, with the phenomenal world. He carried within himself 
the germ which, as it developed, must invariably, like a chemi- 
cal reagent, have decomposed that childlike harmony with 
nature. Nature, as the outside world, could not be his aim; in 
his religious flights man strives to withdraw from the 
phenomenal world to the world reigning over all phenomena. 
The ianimal is never at discord with nature; it is the last link 
in the development of individual life that combines with the 
general life of nature without conflict; the dual nature of man 
lies precisely in the fact that he, in addition to his positive 
existence, cannot but take a negative attitude to material life. 
He remains at discord not only with external nature but even 
with himself. This disharmony torments him and it is this 
suffering that impels him onward. There are moments of 
weakness ,and exhaustion when anguish and something 
dreadful in this- -antagonism with nature crush man and he, 
instead of taking the path indicated by the holy finger of truth 
sits down, wearied with fatigue, midway, wipes the bloody 
sweat off his brow and sets up :as the goal the golden calf: an 
easy goal but ia false one. He deceives himself; at times he 
suspects it but, like the enraged Othello, blinded by fury, 
prays that he be deceived, though he craves to know the truth. 
To escape from what is disquieting and frightful in the discord 
with the physical world, man is ready to sink into the crudest 
fetishism, if only it will help him to find a general sphere to 
which he can attach his individual life, anything rather than 
be alien to the world and left to himself. All separatism and 
egotism is repugnant to the universal order. 

As soon as man found himself at variance with nature he 
must have felt the need for knowledge, the need once again to 
assimilate and subdue the external world. Of course we 
cannot possibly suppose that the need for a theory of knowledge 
arose distinctly in the minds of people; no, they realized it 
intuitively. A vague sympathy and a purely practical attitude 
cannot, in themselves, satisfy the thinking nature of man. Like 
a plant, man, no matter where -he is, invariably turns towards 



140 A. HERZGN 

light. However, he differs from the plant in that the latter 
can never attain the desired aim, no matter how it tries, 
because the sun is external to it, while the mind of 
man, his light, is within man himself and all he needs to 
do is not to reach out for it -but to concentrate within him- 
self. At first this does not occur to man -and if his intelligence 
divines the possibility of truth, he is still far from knowing the 
way to attain it. He is not free enough to understand: the 
heavy pall of animal instincts has not yet been dissipated; 
fantastic images flit through it but shed no light. Long is the 
path leading to consciousness. To reach it man must renounce 
his individuality and conceive himself as one with the entire 
genus. He must do unto himself as he did unto nature, with 
the help of the word, i.e., he must generalize himself. It is not 
enough that man go further than the animal, comprehending 
the self-contained autonomy of his ego, his ego is the affirma- 
tion, the realization of its own identity, the cancellation of the 
antagonism between the spirit and the body, by the unity of 
the individual. ^V\an must not halt at that. He must identify 
himself with the supreme unity of his genus. This unity begins 
with the jabsorption of the individual, and man, frightened 'by 
this prospect and guided by a false instinct of self-preserva- 
tion, seeks to maintain his personality and posits it as truth. 
In asserting only his identity with himself, man invariably 
finds himself divorced from the rest of the universe, from all 
that he feels is alien to his ego. This is the inevitable and agon- 
izing result of logical egotism. And that is where, indeed, the 
logical movement begins in its attempt to find a way out of 
this ?-ad cleavage; it brings man out of this antinomy back- 
to harmony, but he is no longer the same. Mian begins with 
the spontaneous admission of the unity of being and contem- 
plation and ends in the knowledge of the unity of being .and 
thought. The cleavage between man and nature is like a wedge 
which, as it is driven in, separates little by little everything 
into opposite parts, even the very spirit of man it is the 
divide et impera of logic, the path to the true iand eternal unity 
of what is split. 

We have seen that man, by means of the word, has snatched 
from transitoriness, from evianescent one-sidedness, all that 



LETTERS ON TIIK STUDY OF NATURE 141 

he met on his way, all that stood revealed to his senses and to 
his experience. Man names only the general: he cannot name 
the unique, the particular, the accidental. For that he resorts 
to ia more elementary medium a pointed finger. Thus the 
object of knowledge is, from the very outset, divorced from 
immediate being and exists, as an element exterior to thought, 
in a generalized form. This generalized object constitutes an 
immediacy of the second order, man understands that it is 
alien and endeavours to dissolve the regenerated object which 
experience has imposed on ihim; he desires to know it and to 
remove this second immediacy and neither to doubt its alien 
character nor his ability to comprehend it as it is. When the 
need arose to know an object then, evidently, knowledge 
already regarded it as something alien to comprehension: that 
is what the ignorance of it presupposed. But what then lies 
behind the authenticity of knowledge, its possibility, if the 
object is completely alien to us? These two hypotheses are in- 
compatible, or, at least, they do not condition each other. You 
can even call illogical this inborn faith in the possibility of 
true knowledge alongside the belief that nature is alien to us; 
but then do not forget that this illogicality was also a protest 
against the 'alienation of nature, a testimonial to the fact that 
it is not really so, a pledge of the reconciliation to come. The 
history of philosophy is the recital of how this illogicality was 
resolved in a superior truth. At the beginning of the logical 
process the object remains passive and the active role belongs 
to the person working on it, mediating its existence through 
his mind. His concern is to keep the object as it is, without 
involving it in the process of knowledge. But the concrete, 
live object has already withdrawn; what he sees iare abstrac- 
tions, inanimate bodies and not living beings. lie tries, by ;i 
gradual process, to make up for all that is wanting in these 
abstractions but they remain unchanged, their defects con- 
tinually indicating to him the piath to be taken. This path can 
be easily traced in the history of philosophy. 

Is there any need to contradict the absurd and platitudinous 
opinion 'according to which the philosophical systems iare in- 
coherent and precarious, one eliminating the other, and iall of 
them contradicting one another, each one depending on indi- 



142 A. HER ZEN 

vidual caprice? No! Those who are so weak-sighted that they 
cannot discern the inner contents lurking behind the exterior 
of ia phenomenon, who cannot distinguish the invisible unity 
behind the visible multiplicity, will always, regardless of what 
you say to them, see science as an incoherent mass of opinions 
expressed by different sages, each after his own fashion discuss- 
ing the various instructive and edifying subjects, invariably 
contradicting their teacher and wrangling with their predeces- 
sors: that is atomism, materialism in history. From this point 
of view not only the development of science, but all universal 
history would appear to be the work of individual fancies and 
strange combinations of accidents this anti-religious view 
belongs to some of the sceptics and the half-educated mob. 
Everything that exists in time has a fortuitous, arbitrary edge 
which protrudes outside the bounds of necessary development 
and does not proceed from the conception of the object but 
from the circumstances under which this conception is 
realized. It is this aspect, this fortuitous residuum that certain 
persons can discern, pleased that the siame disorder that reigns 
in their heads reigns in the universe. No pendulum in 
existence can -answer the general formula which expresses the 
law of oscillations, for that formula neither includes the ac- 
cidental weight of the plaque to which it is suspended, nor the 
accidental friction involved. Yet not a single mechanic would 
question the truth of the general law which is -abstracted from 
the occasional irregularities iand represents the eternal law of 
the oscillations. The development of science is like the physical 
pendulum at work: on the whole it follows the general law (in 
this case formulated by logic in all its algebraic generality) 
but in its details one can see everywhere temporary and 
occasional variations. The watch-maker-mechanic can, from 
his point of view, without losing sight of friction, keep the 
general law in mind; the ordinary watch-maker, on the other 
hand, only sees evidence everywhere of the (accidental deflec- 
tions of individual pendulums. Of course, the historical 
development of philosophy could neither be strictly consistent 
chronologically, nor be iaware that every new outlook was the 
result of the development of the preceding one. No, there was 
much latitude for the free play of the spirit, even for freedom 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 143 

of Individuals swept away (by passions. Every outlook appeared 
on the scene with claims to absolute, ultimate truththey 
were justified, in part, in so far as the period in question was 
concerned for the thinker there wias no greater truth than the 
one he had attained. If thinkers did root consider their concep- 
tions absolute they could not halt at it but would go on looking 
for something else. We should, finally, not forget that all 
systems implied foresaw much more than they gave expres- 
sion to: their inadequate language Jailed them. In addition to 
what has been said, every actual step of development is ac- 
companied by particular deviations: the wealth of forces, their 
fermentation, the individualities, the diversity of their aspira- 
tions send forth shoots, so to say, in -all directions; one 
favoured stalk draws the sap further and higher but the simul- 
taneous existence of the others is as obvious. To seek in history 
and in nature that .external and internal system which by 
itself gives rise to pure thought in its own element, where the 
environment is not ian obstacle iand accidents .are excluded, 
where the individuality itself is not admitted and there is 
nothing to interfere with the harmonious development of 
thought, means to know nothing about the true character of 
history and nature. Regarded from that point of view, one iand 
the same person taken at different iages could, perhaps, be 
taken for so many different persons. Just see through what 
diversity the animal kingdom arrives to one prototype where 
its multiplicity disappears; see how, each time that it attains 
some particular form, this genus disperses in all directions, 
in almost incalculable variations on the principal theme: 
certain species outstrip the original type, others diverge from 
it, while still others constitute transition stages and inter- 
meditate links and sail this chaos does not obscure its intrinsic 
unity for someone like Goethe or Geoffroy Siaint-Hilaire; only 
an inexperienced and superficial examination does not 
discern it. 

However, even a superficial examination of the evolution of 
thought will, indeed, find one sharp and difficult turning-point 
to perceive: we refer to the transition from ancient philosophy 
to modern philosophy, with scholasticism serving .as their 
link. We must admit that the nature of their connection is not 



144 A. 11 E R Z E N 

obvious. But once we assume that this was a regression (which 
was not the case at all), can we deny that all antique phi- 
losophy was a finished work of art, remarkably complete and 
harmonious? Can we deny that modern philosophy engendered 
by the divided and dual life of the Middle Ages and reproduc- 
ing in itself this division as it appeared (Descartes and 
Bacon) took the right direction in seeking to develop to the 
utmost both these principles and having said that final word, 
that is, produced the crassest materialism and most abstract 
idealism, it undertook ihe immediate and grand task of cancell- 
ing this dualism by supreme unity? Ancient philosophy fell 
because it never made a sharp and profound rupture with the 
world; because it never lasted of all the sweetness and all the 
bitterness of negation; it did not know the great power of the 
human spirit concentrated in itself, in its-elf alone. Modern 
philosophy, for its part, kicked those realistic and living 
attributes of antiquity where form and contents are fused. It is 
beginning to acquire these attributes now and in this 
rapprochement stands revealed the actual unity of the two 
philosophical systems: it is manifest in the very fact that they 
cannot exist without each other. 

Truth and nothing bat the truth w,as the subject matter of 
the philosophies of all times. It was seen from various angles 
and differently expressed, 'and every different view developed 
into a school, -a system. Truth, after passing through a series 
of one-sided definitions, finds ever richer and ever more lucid 
expression. Every conflict between the two conceptions 
sunders one veil after another. Fantasies, images, ideas by 
means of which man strives to express his innermost thoughts 
evaporate, and imperceptibly thought finds its true tongue. 
There can be no philosophical system founded on -a pure lie or 
an absurdity; every principle i^ founded on 'an authentic ele- 
ment, (absolute truth, albeit conditioned, limited by the one- 
sided definition which does not explain it fully. When you arc 
faced with a system whose origin, evolution, school seems to 
have some absurdity in its basis then, before passing judge- 
ment, have that much grace 'and courtesy for reason as to 
examine, not the formal expression, but the meaning which 
the school itself attaches to its principle. Then you will certain- 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 146 

ly discover a one-sided truth and not an absolute lie. That is 
why every moment of the development of science, one-sided 
and transitory though it be, invariably has an eternal heritage 
to bequeath. What is particular tand one-sided dies after some 
agitation at the foot of the mountain of science, exhaling its 
last eternal breath into it, breathing its truth into it. The mis- 
sion of thought lies precisely in developing the transient into 
the eternal! 

In the next letter we shall take up Greece. An excellent 
epigraph to Greek thought are the celebrated words of 
Protagoras: "Man is the measure of all things. In him is to be 
found the definition of why the existing exists and why the 
non-existing does not exist/' 

Pokrovskoye, August 1844 

LETTER THREE 

GREEK PHILOSOPHY 

THE EAST had no science. It lived in fantasies and never paused 
long enough to be able to clear up its thought, let alone develop 
it scientifically: it was so infinitely diffuse that it could not 
arrive at iany self -definition. The East sparkles brilliantly, 
especially from afar, but man is overwhelmed tand lost in this 
brilliance. Asia is a land of disharmony and contrasts. It has 
no sense of moderation in anything whereas moderation is 
the miain prerequisite of harmonious development. The life of 
the peoples of the East consisted of either the ferment of 
terrible upheavals or the stagnant calm of monotonous repeti- 
tion. The Easterner had no sense of dignity: he was either a 
cringing slave or an unrestrained despot. His thought was, 
likewise, either too modest or too arrogiant: now it overstepped 
its own bounds and those of nature, now it renounced human 
dignity iand sank into bestiality. The religious 'and gnostic life 
of Asians alternates between feverish restlessness and dead 
stillness. It is at one ;and the same time colossal and in- 
finitesimal, and begets conceptions of both amazing profundity 
and childish inanity. The relation between the individual and 
the object is realized, though vaguely. The content of Eastern 

101157 



146 A. HER ZEN 

thought consists of fancies, images, allegories, or of the most 
elaborate nationalism (as with the Chinese), or of the most 
hyperbolical poetry where fantasy knows no bounds (ias with 
the Indians). The East could never impart 'an adequate form to 
its thought because it had never reasoned out its contents but 
only dreamed .about it in various images. There certainly 
could be no question of natural sciences: their views of nature 
led to the crudest pantheism or to complete scorn for nature. 
Amid the chaos of myths, allegories, and monstrous fancies 
you get an occasional glimpse of bright, heart-stirring thoughts 
and images of amazing exquisiteness. They atone for much 
and hold the heart, for a long time, under their spell. To them 
belong the admirable lines selected by us as an epigraph.* 
They .are cited by Colebrooke in his work on Indian philosophy. 
What can be more exquisite than this picturesque, passionate 
bayadere abandoning herself to the gaze of her -audience? 
Incidentally, it brings to mind another dancing bayadere who 
captivated the heart of Mahadevi. The few lines by Goethe 
which we quoted seem to complete this image. Yet the Indian 
conception would never have gone so far. It stopped, indeed, 
in its myths, at the point that determinate being is destined 
but to pass by. It did not carry away either Mahadevi or any 
Brahmin: the bayadere only appeared to vanish then and 
there; in Goethe, she is wrested, in ,all her dazzling beauty, 
from destruction: the eternal thought has also room for the 
transient: 

Und in semen Armen schwebet 

Die Geliebte mit hervor. 

The first free step in the element of thought was taken 
when man had left Asia and set foot on noble European soil. 
Ionia w<as the beginning of Greece and the end of Asia. The 
people had scarcely settled on this new land when they began 
struggling out of their swaddling clothes that had bound them 
in the East and thought ceased squandering itself in a debauch 
of fantasy <and began seeking a way out of viague impulses in 
self-definition and self-restraint. In Greece man restrained 
himself in order to develop an unlimited spirit; he became 

* At the beginning of these letters. A//. 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 14? 

definite in order to shake off the indefinite state of somnolence 
into which he had been plunged by amorphous multiplicity. 
When we come to the Hellenic world, we get ia whiff of our 
native air. This is the West, this is Europe. The Greeks were 
the first to sober up -after Asiatic inebriety, to take a clear view 
of life and get their bearings in it; they were perfectly at home 
on the earth serene, lucid, humane. In the Iliad and the 
Odyssey and not in Mahabharata or in Shakuntala do we find 
something familiar and kindred to our spirit. Eastern poems 
always leave me depressed *and ill -at ease. Not in that medium 
can man breathe freely: it is too viast and, at the same time, 
too confined. Their poems are oppressive dreams from which 
mian awakes panting -and feverish, and still under the impres- 
sion that he is walking -across an inclined floor around which 
walls revolve and monstrous images flash by without evoking 
anything consoling or dear to the heart. The' monstrous 
fantasies of Eastern writings were as repugnant to the Greeks 
as were the colossal dimensions of, say, Memnon, some seventy 
metres high. The Greeks never confused the enormous with 
the sublime or the overwhelming with the beautiful they 
always triumphed over the abstract category of quantity: in 
the Marathon fields ias in Praxitelean statues, in the heroes of 
their poems -as in the serene images of the Olympians. They 
realized that the secret of the beautiful lies in the sublime 1 
proportion of form iand content, of the internal and the exter- 
nal; that everything highly developed in nature was remarkable 
not for its prodigious maw but, on tha contrary, for the 
absolutely necessary correlation between the external and the 
internal; where the external is too vast, the internal is too poor. 
Seas, mountains and steppes are immense, while a horse, a 
deer, a pigeon, a bird of paradise are comparatively diminutive. 
The idea of ia sublime, musical proportion, limited and there- 
fore infinite, is all but the principal idea of Greece which 
guided it in everything; it was manifest in that subtle har- 
mony of all aspects of Athenian life which charms us by its 
artistry. The idea of beauty constituted for the Greeks an 
absolute idea; it cancelled, indeed, the antagonism between 
spirit and body, between form iand content. In chiselling his 
marbles, the Greek each time fashioned ia harmonious unity of 
10* 



148 A. HERZEN 

those elements which had yielded unreservedly to the over- 
wrought fantasy of the East. 

Within certain limits which it could not overstep without 
transcending its essence, the Greek world was wonderfully 
complete. Its life possessed a kind of fusion, that imperceptible 
combination of diverse parts, that harmony, which arouses the 
same admiration that a beautiful woman does; the modern 
world could not reach that fusion, that virtuosity, in life, 
science and institutions. That has remained a mystery which it 
could not purloin from the Greek sarcophagi. 

There are people to whom Greek life seems insipid and 
unsatisfactory precisely because it is well-proportioned, 
kindred to nature and possesses the clarity of youth. They 
shrug their shoulders speaking about.the joyous Olympus and 
its rakish dwellers. They scorn the Greeks because they enjoyed 
life instead of gushing or tormenting themselves with ficti- 
tious sufferings; they cannot forgive the Greeks for equally 
worshipping beauty's serene brow and the civic action of a 
citizen, <an athlete's prowess and a sophist's dialectics. They 
rank much higher the gloomy Egyptians or even the Persians, 
let ^lone the Hindus. Thanks to Schlegel's initiative India- 
mania has, for twenty years, been boundless. That proves 
nothing: you may also find individuals to whom everything 
healthy is repulsive such perverse constitutions regard as 
true only those pleasures which arc unniatural. But that is the 
domain of psychopalhology. For us, on the contrary, the 
grandeur of Greek life lies in its simplicity behind which there 
is a deep understanding of life; it flows tranquilly between 
two extremes: between sinking into sensual spontaneity, which 
dissolves a personality, and losing reality in abstract general- 
ities. The outlook of the Greeks seems to us to be materialist 
when compared with scholastic dualism or the transcendental 
idealism of the Germans. It may, indeed, be termed realism 
(in the broiad sense of the word), and with the Greeks this real- 
ism existed prior to all sages and schools. A belief in pre- 
destination, in fate, is the belief of empiricism, of realism; it is 
based on the implicit admission of the reality of the world, 
mature and life: what is, is not accidental; it is predestined, 
it is inevitable, it must be. This belief in fate is iat the same 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 149 

time >a belief in facts, in the reason of the external. Thought 
(which easily emancipated itself from the myths of polytheism) 
was bound, from the outset, to arrive at the contemplation of 
fate in terms of life-giving liaw, of the first principle (that is, 
Nous) of all that exists. On this first principle the whole great 
edifice of Greek learning was easily erected. 

Greek thought had never gone as far as a rupture with 
niature or with existence, as far as the irreconcilable contradic- 
tion between the absolute and the relative. Nor was there any- 
thing hectic about it; it did not regard its work as a sacrilegious 
probing of a mystery, a criminal enquiry into the forbidden, 
as cabbala, tan evil traffic with the dark forces. On the con- 
trary, Greek thought had the limpid gaze of a man just 
awakened, who joyfully observes the world laround him, 
aware, from the first moment, that he is called upon to conp 
prehend it iand elevate it into thought. His intention is pure 
and disinterested, and therefore he is bold and confident. He 
does not tremble like a medieval adept who spies into the 
mystery of nature. Their very aims iare different. The former 
seeks knowledge, the truth. The latter seeks power over 
nature. For one nature has an objective meaning. The other 
only seeks to modify it, to obtain gold from stone or make the 
earth transparent. Of course these egotistic claims show a 
certain grandeur of the epoch too; there is something in the 
deformed shape of medieval alchemy which makes the adept 
superior to the ancient Greek. Spirit had not yet become tlte 
object for the Greeks; it had not yet become self-sufficient .and 
independent of nature and, consequently, it did not posit it but 
accepted it as -a fatal reality; the key to the truth did not yet 
lie within man. Now, the alchemist regarded himself as being 
precisely this key. The Greek could not dispense with external 
necessity; he did find the means of being morally free by 
recognizing this necessity, but it was not enough. He had to 
transform destiny itself into freedom, to subjugate everything 
to reason. This victory of reason had to be achieved through 
suffering, but the Greeks did not know how to suffer they 
treated the gravest problems lightly. The Neoplatonics realized 
this and took another course; what the Greek views lacked 
became their first principle and starting-point but it was tod 



t^O A. HER ZEN 

late. With the Neoplatonics idealism beciame a dominant trend, 
an integral orthodox conception; thought then became different, 
it lost that grasp of reality characteristic of the true Greek 
philosophy. The reunion of the two :above -aspects is perhaps 
the most important task of science of the future.* 

The beginning of knowledge is ia conscious opposition of 
self to the object and the desire to transcend this oppositeness 
through thought. Ionian philosophy exemplifies this phase, 
richly and extensively developed. The awakened consciousness 
countenances nature and seeks to subjugate its diversity to 
unity, to something universal dominating the particular. This 
is the first impulse of a man when, roused from the vague 
dreams of immediate sense perception and no longer content 
with them, he craves not for images but for comprehension. 
At the outset man does not look for this universal unity either 
in himself or in the spiritual element in general; he looks to 
find it in the object itself and withal -as -an element of the 
real, for he is so iaccustomed to spontaneity that he cannot 
break free of it at once. The object of the enquiry is also im- 
mediate, supplied by the empirical world, that is, by nature. 
In order to posit himself as an object man has to traverse a 
long path of thought iand, <among other things, to come to 
question the complete reality of nature. Practically, subcon- 
sciously, man acted as one who has power over the world 
around him, or rather over the particulars of his environ- 
ment he denied their -autonomy. However, theoretically, in 
the general sense, consciously, he had not yet taken that step. 
On the contrary, man possessed an inmate belief in the 



* In setting down the principal features of Greek philosophy I have 
utilized Hegel's lectures on the history of ancient philosophy. All quota- 
tions from Plato and Aristotle are taken from them. His history of ancient 
philosophy possesses a high artistic perfection. This cannot be said about 
his history of modern philosophy which is poor, one-sided in places, or 
even biased (how little credit is given, for instance, to the great achieve- 
ment of Kant!). Those familiar with German philosophy will find in my 
exposition of ancient philosophy some rather important digressions from 
ithe "Lectures on the History of Philosophy." In many cases I had no 
desire to repeat the German philosopher's opinions, purely abstract, and 
Stamped with idealism, particularly since in those cases he was not true 
to himself and only paid a tribute to his day. A.M. 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 151 

empirical world, in nafure, just as he has an innate belief in 
thought. In surrendering to this belief in the physical world, 
man sought to find in it "the first principle of all things," that 
is to say, the unity from which everything originates and for 
which everything strives the universal which embraces the 
particular in its entirety. Where were the lonians to find that 
audacity which would enable them to search their hearts for 
this first principle? Bear in mind that it was a thousiand years 
later that Goethe dared to ask, "Is not the kernel of nature in 
man's heart?" and was not understood by his contemporaries! 
With boyish simplicity, the loniians tried to find the first 
principle in nature itself. They sought it as essence in 
existence, as the highest substance which would underlie ail 
other things. Unaccustomed to abstractions, their mind could 
be satisfied only with the natural, visible first principle. Neither 
knowledge nor thought ever begins with the complete truth: it 
is their object. There would be no need for thought if there 
existed a ready-made truth. There is none. It is 'the develop- 
ment of the truth that constitutes its organism without which 
it is. unreal. Through thought it develops from its exiguous, 
abstract, one-sided definition to <a most complete, concrete, 
many-sided one. It -attains this completeness by a series of 
self-definitions, delving ever deeper into the reason of the 
object. The first, the initial definition is the most external, the 
most undeveloped one it is a germ, a mere possibility, a close 
concentration in which all distinctions are lost. But ias it 
continues towards self-definition the truth finds more and 
more orgians for its ideal being. Thus, reason in & new-born 
child becomes reality only when his organs iare sufficiently 
developed and grow strong and mature enough when his 
brain becomes capable of bearing his reason. 

But where could they find in nature, in this vortex of per- 
petual change which does not manifest the same feature twice 
in succession, that universal principle or at least such of its 
aspects as would best approximate the idea of unity tand rest 
in the restless multiplicity of the physical world? Nothing 
could have been more natural than the acceptance of water as 
this first principle: it has* no stable definite form, it is to be 



162 A. HERZEN 

found wherever there is life, it is perpetual motion and per- 
petual repose. 

Wasser umfdnget 

Ruhig das AW 

In assuming water as the first principle of all things, Thales 
no doubt saw in it more than the water, flowing in streams. 
For him, water wias riot only a substance distinct from other 
substances such as earth and air, but in general a fluid in 
which everything was dissolved and from which everything 
wias formed. What is solid settles in water, what is light 
.evaporates. For Thales, too, it probably represented a proto- 
type of thought in which all that exists is transcended and 
preserved. Only in this sense, broad and pregnant with mean- 
ing, does empirical Avater assume ia genuinely philosophical 
sense as the first principle. Thales's water a natural element 
and at the same time thought is the first glimmer, the first 
gleam of the idea behind the crude physical crust which still 
envelops it. This is the infantile foresight of the unity of 
thought and being. It is fetishism in the sphere of logic, and 
an excellent kind of fetishism too. Water, that calm, deep 
medium, ever active through its divarication (condensation, 
evaporation), is (he aptest image of a conception which is 
being split into opposite definitions and serves to connect the 
latter. It stands to reason that water does not correspond to 
the conception of the univers-al essence with which Thales 
associated it. The real conception of water, however, is not so 
important as is his conception of water, for that is what gives 
us an idea of his conception of the first principle. 

When thought, method, and language are in .a rudimentary 
stage, one-sided definitions imply far more than is contained 
in the strict, prosaic meaning of the words used. We shall 
often chance upon some deep meaning lurking behind an 
awkward expression and, therefore, it is exceedingly important 
to grasp the sense in which the system itself understood its 
first principles. To say simply that Thales (assumed water to te 
the first principle or that Pythagoras attributed this role tc 
number, without giving thought to what the former implied 
by water and the latter by number, means to take them for 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 153 

ha If -insane or obtuse people. They have their own idea of 
glossology. They wanted to squeeze into the image they had 
chosen more thought than it could hold, but this is no reason 
for denying or neglecting that aspect of their thought which, 
though inadequately expressed, certainly has left a deep and 
lasting mark. Thus, in low forms of life we find indications of, 
or hints at, those parts and organs which are fully evolved only 
in higher animals. This rudimentary state, apparently unneces- 
sary, is a prerequisite of the perfection to come. 

Every school implied by its first principle more than it 
expressed formally, .and therefore considered it -absolute, and 
believed itself to be in possession of the whole truth and was 
right in part. Now the philosophic system which followed 
usually saw only what wias explicit and strove to transcend 
this one-sidedness, which lay claims to universality, by .a new 
one-sidedness with the same claims. A fierce struggle ensued 
and the assailant did not guess, in his blindness, that the 
passing stage of mental development was indeed in posses- 
sion of the truth but in an incongruous form, its deficiencies 
being made up for by its vital spirit. The passing stage, on 
its part, wias as little aware of the fact that the side which was 
supplanting it had a right to do so in the name of that aspect 
of the truth it possessed. Nor was water alone the empirical 
receptacle for the Ionian idea of unity. It is too specific to be 
able to satisfy all the requirements of a universal first 
principle. Air, as an element essentially invisible and rarefied, 
was -also assumed by some of the lonians to be the first 
principle. At length they made an attempt to divorce them- 
selves completely from the natural reality >and pass into the 
sphere of those abstractions which constitute the propyleae of 
logic; they expressly denied the finite in favour of the infinite 
substratum like matter, the substance of the modern physicist. 
The infinite of Anaximander was precisely a substance 
destitute of any qualitative definitions. That was the first step 
taken by science, half-childish, yet steady. Diverging geometri- 
cal conceptions were reduced to that unity sought for in 
nature, the autonomy of the particular was not denied in favour 
of the universal principle, regardless of how the latter wias 
defined. This subordination to unity and universality is a 



154 A. HER ZEN 

genuine element of thought. No great perspicacity was needed 
to realize that polytheism stood no chance against this unity. 
The fiate of Olympus was sealed the instant Thales turned to 
nature. Searching in it for the truth, he expressed his view, 
like other lonians, independently of pagan conceptions. The 
priests bethought themselves too late of punishing Anaxagoras 
and Socrates, for the element in which the lonians lived 
contained the germ fatal to the Elysian and other pagan 
mysteries. Those who would reproach the lonians that, while 
taking an empirical element for the first principle, they yet 
showed ian inadequate understanding of the element of 
thought, will be right. But, on the other hand, let them do 
justice to the purely realistic Greek intuition which impelled 
them to seek for the first principle in nature itself and not 
outside it, to seek for the infinite in the finite, for thought in 
being, for the eternal in the transient. They planted their feet 
on scientific ground. The real first principle could not, indeed, 
maintain itself on it, but that ground was capable of develop- 
ment. That wias the first step: one who had gained it had the 
whole ladder in sight. 

Before thought passed from the sensuous and real defini- 
tions of the absolute to those abstract and logical, it had, 
Naturally, to attempt to express the absolute by means of an 
intermediary element to find the truth between the extremes 
of the real and the abstract. This inclination to take advantage 
of every possibility is characteristic of the restless and ever 
active niature of life both in the historical and physical worlds: 
the organic development of matter does not miss a single 
possibility, without calling it into existence. Half-way between 
purely sensuous and logical definitions Pythagoras found 
something permanent which bound them together and 
belonged to both, which was neither sensation nor thought 
that was number. The daring and, consequently, the soundness 
of Pythagoras's thought is obvious: all that exists, ordinarily 
taken for reality, was upset, and to supplant empirical 
existence something immateriate, ideal, was elevated to, iand 
accepted for the truth, this being far from subjective but some- 
thing ideal stamped off the materiate, as it were. As Aristotle 
remarked, the Pythagoreans conceived the universe as a 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 155 

harmonious system of numbers and their interrelations. They 
wrested the permanent relation from the eternal changes of 
phenomenal being it, indeed, dominates all that exists. The 
miathematical conception of^ the world enunciated by the 
Pythagoreans, and so extensively developed in modern times, 
has come down to us through the ages precisely because it 
possesses a profoundly true aspect. Mathematics is 'the inter- 
mediary between logic and empiricism. It recognizes the 
objectivity of thought and the logic of events; its hostile 
attitude towards philosophy has no formal grounds. It goes 
without saying that the relation between objects, moments, 
and phases, the harmonious laws which link them and the series 
by which they are evolved, do not exhaust all the contents of 
either nature or thought. The Pythagoreans overlooked the fact 
that they implied much more by number than its conception 
actually contained, and that the residue was something dead, 
passive, independent of the concrete contents that it was ian 
indifferent measure. For them, order, concordance, harmonious 
numerical combinations satisfied all the requirements but 
that was because they, actually, did not stop at purely mathe- 
matical definitions. The genius of the teacher and the inspired 
imagination of his disciples complemented what was lacking 
in the first principle. As we shall see, that illogical comple- 
ment constantly recurs in Greek philosophy due to the 
transcending subjectivity of Greek genius, so to speak, and, 
on the other hand, to their incapacity to conceive pure ab- 
stractions. Yet it is this adherence of the Greeks to realism 
and their clairvoyance of the truth rather than the awareness 
of it that account for the narrow gulf separating the individual 
from nature in the ancient world. 

Number left to itself could not sustain itself at the level to 
which the Pythagoreans had raised it. "It did not bear within 
itself the principle of self-motion," as Aristotle remarked. A 
number was, with them, not merely an arithmetical digit, the 
first proportional, key, series, a measure; it was for them an 
absolute unity as well, a possibility of self-divarication, it was 
a vitalizing monad, a hermaphrodite which bore within itself 
its division and did not lose its unity while developing into 
multiplicity. They were so thoroughly imbued with the sense 



156 A. HERZEN 

of order, agreement, harmony, numerical combinations, omni- 
present rhythm, that they perceived the universe as a statico- 
musical whole. Who can indeed deny them the grandeur of 
their conception of the ten hoavenly spheres; strictly arranged 
not only as regards their dimension and speed, but ialso 
musically? Perpetually travelling in their orbits, they emit 
harmonious sounds which fuse into one majestic, universal 
choir. Removed from everything poetical, the mathematical 
view is, probably, very near to everything fantastic and 
mystical. The maddest mystics of all ages drew their support 
from Pythagoras and created their theories of numbers. There 
is something sombrely majestic, '.ascetic, deadening, in the 
mathematical view. This is the element that substitutes 
the real passions, impels fantasy to astrology, cabbala and 
so on. 

One more step along this piath of generalization -and 
thought had to sever the last fetters and appear in its own 
province, that is, to detach itself not only from the sensuous 
and the numerical definitions but, on the whole, from every 
concrete definition, and to sacrifice the fulness of the diversity 
to the abstract unity of the universal. On the one hand, this 
step emancipated thought from everything limiting it and, on 
the other hand, lead to the greatest abstractions in which 
everything was lost and which offer the greatest latitude pre- 
cisely because they constitute a void. To free the object from 
the one-sidedness of realistic definitions means iat the same 
time to make it indefinite. The more general the sphere is, the 
greater the number of complicating one-sided elements 
eliminated, the closer does it seem to approximate the truth. 
But in reality it is not so: rending one covering after another, 
man seeks to reach the kernel. Actually, as he removes the last 
he finds that the object has completely disappeared. There is 
nothing left to fiim save the consciousness that this is not 
nothing, but the final result of removing definitions. It is 
obvious that this path will not lead to the truth. Unfortunately, 
they closed their eyes to this evidence. On the contrary, as 
they generalized categories and purged the object from tall 
definitions, both quantitative and qualitative, they arrived sol- 
emnly at the most abstract recognition of the identity of the 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 157 

object with themselves and took the phantom of pure being 
for the truth of real existence. Pure being oecomes a 
sort of ghost that has left the dead body and hovers 
over it unable to revive it. The logical processes, the pheno- 
menological movement of thought, can have no better hy- 
pothesis, no better point of departure than pure being, for the 
principle cannot be either determined or expressed by inter- 
mediary elements; pure being is something spontaneous and 
indefinite. Finally, there can be no real truth, at the beginning, 
but only ia possibility of it. Give any definition, any develop- 
ment you like, to pure being and the result will be that being 
will become definite, real, and will no longer be true to the 
character of a principle, of a possibility. Pure being is that 
chasm which has engulfed all definitions of real being (while 
it is they alone that exist), which is nothing other than a 
logical abstraction just as a point or ia line >are mathematical 
abstractions. At the beginning of the logical process it is as 
much being as not-being. But one should not think that deter- 
minate being really -arises from pure being surely -a real in- 
dividuum does not arise out of the conception of its genus. 
Thought begins with these abstractions, and its movement 
necessarily reveals their abstract character and renounces them 
by its further evolution. Thought is, ,at the beginning of the 
logical process, precisely an ability for abstract generaliza- 
tion. In thought the finite and determinate attain infinity, at 
first indeterminate, yet determined then by a series of forms 
which finally acquire full determinateness, and thus conclude 
the infinite and finite in a conscious unity. 

Pure being was taken for the truth, for the 'absolute, by the 
Elcatics: they accepted the abstraction of pure being for a 
reality more real than determinate being, for the supreme unit) 
dominating diversity. This logical, cold, abstract unity was 
dispiriting; it did taway with every distinction, every motion; 
it was eternal, mute infinity, a dead calm at sea, lethargic 
sleep, and finally death, non-existence. The Eleatics, indeed, 
denied every movement and did not recognize the truth of 
diversity. It wias Indian quietism in philosophy. Being testifies 
to only one thing that it exists. Nothing more inconsequential 
can be said about an object than that it is. It is a repetition of 



158 A. HERZEN 

the word Om! Om! by a Brahmin who has reached the desired 
proximity to Vishnu and who has taken his stand on the edge 
of ia precipice towards which he had rushed in order to free 
himself from his individuality. Being has no need of motion 
if it is only to be. In order to be active, being must lack some- 
thing, strive for something, struggle with something, or else 
attain some goal. But what being might strive for, would 
necessarily be outside of it, and consequently would not exist 
iat al). The Eleatics denied movement and non-existence very 
consistently. "Being exists/' Ptarmenides said, "while non- 
being does not." True to that sense of the real characteristic of 
the Greeks, the Eleatics did not dare go to the ultimate logical 
conclusion. They were incapable of giving utterance to the 
view that pure being is identical with non-being. A kind of 
instinct warned them that all possible abstractions would not 
be able to destroy substratum, matter, and that being, though 
the poorest property of the latter, is, nonetheless, its most in- 
alienable one, and cannot really be dispensed with there is 
no place to keep it: one may only turn away from it and not 
recognize it in its changed form. 

The celebrated Lavoisier chanced, in the eighteenth century, 
upon the same idea of the immutability of material being .and 
inferred that the total weight of all the products of a chemical 
reaction must be equal to the total weight of the reading 
substances, the quantity of matter being permanent, i.e., not- 
withstanding any qualitative changes the weight must remain 
the same. Biasing himself on the idea of the Eleatics and 
Leucippus, he took up the chemical scales and what grand 
results he and his followers achieved you yourself know. 
Humtari thought could not for long maintain itself -at the 
terrible generality of pure being. Coming to rest in the abstract 
sphere of pure being inevitably led to the understanding that 
this sphere is complete indifference, like the hypothetical 
expanding force which acts in free space in Schelling's con- 
struction of the physical world: meeting no obstacle it expands 
to a point where it ceases to exist altogether and it is too 
late to save it by the contracting force. 25 The fact is that pure 
being, like -.absolute expansion, is not real, they are like the 
coordinates which geometry uses for determining a point: 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 169 

these coordinates serve geometry and not the point, or to put 
it more simply, pure being is a scaffolding by which abstract 
thought tascends to the concrete. Not only is there no nothing, 
there is also no pure being and what exists is only being, 
determining itself and accomplishing itself in the eternal 
active process whose abstract iand opposite moments (being 
and non-being) exist -apart, independently of each other, only 
in the phenomenology of consciousness and not in the real, 
empirical world. These two moments, disunited, abstracted 
from the process that binds them, are illusory and impossible. 
They are true only ias transitional stages of the logical process. 
In existence they are, on the contrary, real, and therefore, 
inseparably bound to each other. Real being is not the rigidity 
of death but an eternal genesis, the struggle between being 
and non-being, a perpetual tendency toward determiniateness, 
on the one hand, and a similar striving to denounce all positive 
elements obstructing the movement. 

"All flows!" the famous words were uttered by Heraclitus 
and the smelted crystal of the Eleatic being dashed forward 
in ian unending stream. Henaclitus subjected both being and 
non-being to change, to motion: all flows, nothing remains 
immobile or unchanged. Everything moves, rapidly or slowly, 
being modified, transformed, oscillating between being and 
non-being. "Things," says Heraclitus, "are like a running 
stream; one cannot step twice into the same wiater."* For him, 
the -absolute is the very process by which the natural diversity 
arrives at unity. The real is not passive obedience to the 
abstract materiality, nor the substratum of movement, nor 
the existence of what is moved but that which necessarily 
moves it, which modifies it. For Heraclitus being contains 
within itself its own negation which is both inalienable and 
inherent in it; this is its daemonic first principle which ac- 
companies it always and everywhere, opposing it and cancell- 
ing what it 'has created, preventing it from falling into 
slumber, from being solidified in immobility. Being lives in 



* "Bodies," according to Leibnitz, "only seem constant. They resemble 
a torrent in which the water is renewed every instant; they resemble 
Theseus's vessel which the Athenians were continually repairing." A.H. 



160 A. HER ZEN 

motion. On the one band, its life is nothing but a constant, 
unremitting movement, an active struggle and, if you will, an 
active reconciliation of being and non-being. And the more 
tenacious and bitter the struggle is, the closer are they to each 
other, the higher is the life generated by them. This struggle 
is both the end iand the beginning it is a continuous reciprocal 
action from which they cannot escape. This is life's squirrel's 
cage. The organism o-f the animal is a constant struggle with 
death which invariably triumphs, but this triumph is -again in 
favour of determinate being iand not in favour of non-being. 
The multi-elemental tissue which goes to make .a living body 
constantly decomposes into bi-elemental tissues (that is, in- 
organic) and is constantly reconstituted. Hunger reiterates its 
claims because material is constantly being consumed. Breath- 
ing sustains life and consumes the organism which uninter- 
ruptedly produces what is being burned up. Stop feeding an 
animal and its blood and brain will burn out. The more highly 
life is developed, the higher the sphere it has entered, the 
more desperate will the struggle be between being iand non- 
being, the closer are they to each other. A stone is much more 
durable than an lanimal. In it being is stronger than non-' 
being. It has but little need of its environment. It will not 
change either its form or composition without great effort 
exerted upon it from outside. It contains almost nothing 
within itself that might cause its decomposition, iand therefore 
it is so tenacious of life, while the slightest touch of an 
animal's brain this complicated, delicate, never solidifying 
mass destroys the animal; the slightest disturbance of the 
complicated chemical equilibrium of its blood is enough to 
make it languish for its normal state, suffer and die if it cannot 
win, thai is, regain normalcy. Passive inert being with its 
gross definiteness encroaches upon life; the life of a stone is 
ia constant swoon, it is freer because it is nearer to non-being; 
life is weaker in its higher manifestations it expends its mate- 
riality, as it were, to reach that height at which being and 
non-being are reconciled and submit to the supreme unity. 
Everything that is beautiful is delicate and fragile: flowers 
wither from cold winds while the rough stalk only grows 
sturdier. However, this stalk is not fragrant iand has no multi- 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 161 

hued petals; a moment of bliss passes by in a flash but it 
contains ia whole eternity. 

Becoming is an active process of self-determination, its 
opposite moments (being and non-being) losing in it their 
dead inertness which concerns -abstract but not real thought. 
Just as death does not lead to pure non-being, so becoming 
does not come out of pure non-being; determinate being arises 
from determinate being which, in its turn, becomes a sub- 
stratum in relation to the higher stage. What has arisen does 
not flaunt its existence it is too banal, it is already implied. 
Nor does it display, as its truth, its identity with itself, its 
mere existence; on the contrary it reveals itself by a process in 
which its being is reduced to a mere moment. 

Heraclitus realized that the truth is precisely the existence 
of two opposite moments. He realized that each of them in 
itself was untrue -and .impossible tand that what was true in 
them wias their tendency to change forthwith into its opposite. 
For this man who lived more than 500 years B. C. this idea 
was so clear that he could not perceive in existence anything 
permanent but that principle which passes into diversity and, 
on the other hand, strives from diversity to unity. He under- 
stood it, in spite of the fact that movement was, indeed, for 
him ian inevitable, fatalistic phenomenon. In recognizing it, he 
submitted to the necessity for which he had no key. Why then 
were the learned men of our times so surprised, so slow in 
understanding, when the Heraclitean idea emerged not as a 
hint dropped by a mian of genius but >as the last word of -a 
method evolved in a strict, clear-cut and scientific wiay? Was 
it this tabrupt and abstract expression "being is nothing," 
that shocked them? Or, perhaps, they were frightened by the 
proximity of the two opposite elements? But it is impossible 
to understand an expression, torn out of living development, 
especially when one does not choose to know the method, nor 
concentrate his 'attention on it. Nothing is clear unless atten- 
tion is concentrated on it neither logic nor the game of 
whist. Practically, we take Heraclitus's view of things; only in 
the general sphere of thought we cannot understand what we 
do. Have not people, from time immemorial, admitted the fact 
that neither the dead inertness of an existing thing nor its 
111157 



162 A. HERZEN 

identity with itself constitutes its full proof? Do we not see in 
all things living, for example, anything but a process of 
eternal transformation, alive apparently, in change alone? 
Take bones, the most solid things in the organism: we do not 
even regard them ias alive. 

We have mentioned that the Eleatics, while taking pure 
being for the basis, had not the courage to admit that it was 
identical with nothing. So too, Heraclitus, who posited the 
principle of motion as the truth of existence, did not go to the 
point of the elimination of being in force, in the cause of 
motion, in substance. The chasm, separating the Greeks from 
the empirical outlook, was never so deep: no sooner does their 
thought reach the most extreme abstractions than elegant 
images and fantastic notions emerge that keep them hovering 
on the very brink of a precipice. Thus, instead of the ultimate, 
inexorable deductions of substantial relation, you find in 
Heraclitus time and fire ias concrete examples of the process of 
motion. Time is really an apt image of the absolute origina- 
tion. Its essence consists solely in being and at the same 
time in not being. Neither the past nor the future is real in 
time but only the present, the latter existing, however, only 
not to exist: it has just passed, it is just iabout to come, it 
exists in this motion as the unity of two opposite moments. 
Fire in nature also suits his thought admirably: fire consumes 
what is opposite to it absolute unrest, absolute dissolution 
of what exists, the transition of the other into itself. Heraclitus 
saw fire everywhere. According to him water is extinguished 
fire, and earth is solidified water, but then the earth is again 
dissolved in seas where it is evaporated into the air. There it 
catches fire -and creates wiater. Thus nature in its entirety is a 
metamorphosis of fire. The very stars are, as Heraclitus con- 
ceived them, not dead miasses finished once and for all; accord- 
ing to him, water evaporates and is precipitated in dark and 
light processes; the dark one results in earth, while the light 
one rises into the air, catches fire in the sun's atmosphere and 
produces stars, meteors, and planets. Thus they are the result 
of this same reciprocal action of life, of this motion. Every- 
thing is rent apart by inner enmity and a striving for the 
supreme unity in friendship and harmony. Elsewhere he 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 163 

observes that the universe is eternally live fire, its soul is a 
flame that rises iand dies out according to its own law. So not 
only does he conceive nature -as a process, he also conceives 
it as a self-iactive process. Nothing, however, is evolved from 
this motion. There is no unity which would arise in the midst" 
of this (alternation and evince the result and first principle of 
this activity. With Heraclitus, the principle of motion is -a 
fatal, forced necessity which sustains itself in the diversity of 
its manifestations and for no seeming reason obtrudes itself 
as an irresistible force, as a phenomenon and not as a free, 
conscious goial. Heraclitus, indeed, ascribes no goal to motion. 
His motion is more concrete than the being of the Elealics, 
yet it is still abstract. It clamours for some goal, for some- 
thing permanent. 

Before we take up the origin and the goal ascribed to 
motion by Anaxagoras, we must show another way of egress 
from pure being, diametrically opposite to that of Heraclitus, 
at least in formal expression, for from the general point of 
view atomism, which we shall take up presently, constitutes 
only a complement necessary and inevitable to dynamism. 
Atomism and dynamism repeat the two-pole struggle of being 
and nothing in a more definite -and compiact field. The principal 
idea of atomism is the negation of pure being in the name of 
determinate being. Here, not abstract being is considered as 
the truth of particulars, but rather the particular included in 
itself that is the truth of being: it is \a return from the domain 
of the (abstract into that of the concrete, a return to the real, 
empirical, extant. Reality is that unity which is not allowed to 
dissolve in abstract categories, and which is ia protest 'against 
the Eleatic pure being in the name of the autonomy of 
determinate being. The particular exists for itself and is itself 
a confirmation of its quantitative iand qualitative actuality. 
Leucippus and Democritus were the founders of this doctrine 
which has ever since run parallel to the main stream of 
philosophy, never, however, 'approaching it.* It rested securely 
on a reliable, albeit one-sided, understanding of nature and 
was of immense value to natural science. Atomism, founded 



* With the possible exception of Leibnitz's monadology. A.M. 
11* 



164 A. HERZEN 

on the assumption of the particular, opposes incontestable 
indivisibility, the individuality, as it were, of every point of 
existence to the unity of being iand motion which embrace 
them. While everything in thought is generalized, in mature 
everything is molecular, even that which seems to us to be 
uniform and homogeneous. Motion according to Heraclitus is 
dependent on necessity, that is, on fatalism. The tatom has a 
purpose in itself and its own existence; it exists for itself and 
attains its concentration. Atomism expresses the universal 
egotism of nature. According to this theory only one aspira- 
tion is true and that is nature's striving for individualization. 
Heraclitus conceives nature as absolute dispersion, which it 
is, as a matter of fact. But he does not perceive that the 
highest, most concentrated individuality man is precisely, 
in spite of his latomism, a universal generic individual whose 
egotism and self-concentration is at the same time radiating 
love. Idealism, on its part, fails to see that genus, the universal, 
the idea, cannot indeed do without an individuum, without an 
atom; until idealism grasps that, atomism will not capitulate 
to it; so long as both insist on an exclusive recognition, they 
both will remain at wiar with each other. Dynamism and 
atomism belong to those inextricable antinomies of science, 
incompletely developed, that we encounter at every step. It is 
evident that the truth is to be found on both sides. Niay, it is 
even evident that the two opposite conceptions express 'almost 
the same idea, the only difference being that with one, the truth 
stands on its head, while with the other, it is on its feet. The 
result is ia contradiction which seems irreconcilable, yet each 
is irresistibly drawn to the standpoint of the other. However, 
minds, priding themselves on their lucidity, do not like to 
consider truth as the unity of one-sided conceptions, as the 
suppression of contradictions. Certainly, one-sided assertions 
are much simpler. The poorer the aspect of a thing we take is, 
the more obvious -and the clearer is it, and also the more 
superfluous and futile: what can be more obvious than the 
formula A=A, and what can be more commonplace? Take 
the simplest formula of an equation of the first degree with one 
unknown quantity; it will be far more complicated but then it 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 165 

will contain an idea, a means of determining the unknown 
quantity. To accept either this or that side of an antinomy is 
totally groundless. Nature teaches us constantly to under- 
stand the opposite in combination; surely its finite is not 
separated from the infinite, the eternal from the transient, 
unity from diversity? The inexorable demiand, "either one or 
the other," is very like the demand "your purse or your life," 
to which a bold man must give a firm reply: "Neither," because 
there is no need to sacrifice either one or the other to your 
whim. To return to Leucippus, let us note that his atom was 
not a dead, indifferent point: he admitted the polarity of the 
indivisible and the void (being iand non-being, lagain) and the 
interaction of atoms. Here he and his followers were lost in 
external explanations and admitted the chance which con- 
nected iand disunited atoms; chance intervened as a mysterious 
force which did not siatisfy the requirements of mind. 

Anaxagoras posits thought as the first principle. Reason, the 
universal, becomes essence and an active mover. His Nous is 
that activity which manifests itself imperfectly and unconscious- 
ly in nature, and which unfolds in all its purity in conscious- 
ness, in mind. In nature Nous is embodied in particulars exist- 
ing in time and spiace; in consciousness it attains its univer- 
sality and eternity. 26 Anaxagoras, this "first lucid thinker," to 
use Aristotle's words, if he did not expressly state that the 
universe is a mind actuated by eternal process, at least he con- 
ceived it as a self-moving soul. The goal of movement is "to 
fulfil everything good contained in the soul." It will be noted 
that this purpose is not something external to thought. We are 
laccustomed to place the purpose on one side and the one who 
pursues it on the other. Now, the goal taken in its universality, 
is implied in the pursuer, and is realized by him the existence 
of the object is affected by its purposiveness: that which was 
is fulfilled, that which is contained is developed. A living thing 
is preserved because it is its own purpose, it does not know 
its own purpose but it has earthly desires and impulses, which 
are set, purposive definitions. No matter what an animal's 
attitude *is towiards its environment the result of their constant 
impact and interaction will be an animal organism: it only 
reproduces itself. In a purposive movement the effect is the 



166 A. HER ZEN 

first principle, the fulfilment of the foregoing. Anaxagoras 
assumed reason and law to be this first principle and set it 
down as the basis of being and motion. Though he did not 
develop the speculative contents of his first principle, yet the 
step he took wias of inestimable benefit to the development of 
thought. His Nous in which everything good is latent, his 
Mind self-preserving itself in its development and containing 
within itself measure (definition), ascends to the supreme 
power over being and controls motion. As we have seen, the 
absolute first principle \\as, according to the lonians, the real 
empirical being posited as absolute. Then it was defined as 
pure being abstracted from existence neither empirical nor 
real but logical, abstract. Still later it was conceived as move- 
ment, as a 'polar process. This movement might, however, 
become an unceasing rotation, purposeless movement and 
nothing else a dreary series of origins, changes, the changes 
of these changes and so on ad infinitum. By positing the 
universal as the first principle, the mind, within being itself, 
and within motion Anaxagoras finds the aim reigning in the 
world, ia sort of thought latent in the universal process. This 
latent thought of being is that ferment, that first cause of 
fermentation, motion, unrest, which disturbs and agitates 
being in order to become explicit thought. In consciousness 
we again encounter that daemonic element which is inherent 
to inert materiality but which now proves to be not daemonic 
but rational, and this is manifested through the truth the 
fulfilment of being, non-being, a motion, origin. One should 
not think that being is sacrificed thereby, and knowledge has 
passed over into consciousness as its opposite element. The 
universal would then have lost its speculative significance and 
become a dry abstraction. This kind of idealistic one-sided- 
ness belongs rather to modern than to ancient philosophy. 
Heraclitus and Anaxagoras attained the limits beyond which 
Greek thought did not go; they acquired for thought that 
ground, those meagre and imperfect foundations on which the 
giants of Greek learning built their views. The ground remained; 
the movement of Heraclitus and the Nous of Anaxagoras 
did not completely exhaust their meaning, but Aristotle 
would not reject them; on the contrary, he would use them as 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 167 

cornerstones for the colossal building he was to erect. One 
cannot but notice the complete logical harmony of the histori- 
cal thought of the Greeks, those chosen children of mankind. 
The Eleatic views inevitably led to the Heraclitean movement 
which, in its turn, as inevitably led to rational substance, to 
purposiveness; it posed a question which Anaxagoras was not 
slow to answer. And this continuity of development, passing 
over from one self-definition of truth to another in organic 
coherence and living harmony, is called a haphazard 
and arbitrary replacement of one philosophical system by 
another. 

When human thought attained this degree of power and 
consciousness, when it gathered strength and became aware 
of its invincible power the Greek world witnessed a brilliant, 
thrilling spectacle of the triumph of youthful enthusiasm in 
learning. I speak of the slandered and misunderstood Sophists. 
The Sophists, those, splendid, luxuriant flowers of the rich 
Greek spirit, represented the period of youthful exuberance and 
audacity. They remind you of a young man who has just been 
released from parental constraint but has not yet acquired a 
definite pursuit in life. He abandons himself wholeheartedly 
to that sense of freedom, to his maturity, and proves by his 
very ardour that he is still a minor. The youth has realized the 
dreadful power which is his; nothing trammels his proud 
spirit, and he stakes his fortune, stakes everything in the 
world that is, everything that the ordinary man, who clings 
to his moth-eaten riches, holds dear, and when the latter 
mournfully shakes his head in reproval, observing his extrav- 
agances, the youth only gives him a scornful glance; he 
has realized how fragile and unsound all things around him 
are and relies on one thing alone, that is, on his thought 
that constitutes his spear and his shield. Such lare the Soph- 
ists. What splendour there is in their dialectics! How in- 
exorable it is! What abandon! What sympathy with all things 
human! What mastery of thought and formal logic! They 
held endless debates, these bloodless tournaments, which 
were as graceful as they were powerful they pranced, full of 
youthful mettle, in the austere arena of philosophy. Those 
were science's days of chivalry, its spring. Socrates and Plato 



168 A. HERZEN 

had every right to be the opponents of the Sophists. From 
their point of view they renounced the Sophists, and led 
thought to a more profound consciousness. But detractors of 
the Sophists, who have been repeating their shallow accusa- 
tions throughout the ages, only testify thereby to their narrow- 
mindedness and their dry, prosaic rationalism. They share the 
narrow standpoint of Mme. de Genlis's 27 not over moral moral- 
ity, so well loved by those kindly deistic abbots early in the 
last century who severely rebuked Alexander the Great for his 
partiality for strong drinks and Julius Caesar for his ambi- 
tious dreams. From this point of view neither the Sophists nor 
Alexander the Great can be justified 'but why not relegate this 
morality to reformatory courts handling petty misdemeanours 
and street disturbances? Why apply its standards of morality in 
a discussion of great historical events? Instead of pausing to 
refute obsolete and contemptible opinions, let us rather form 
a better idea of the epoch when the Sophists appeared in 
Greece. 

What existed offered no danger to thought: it had already 
moved forward and flowed on impelled by some inexplicable 
necessity, which (whether it was aim or cause is of no con- 
sequence) was found to be reason. That idea had been dropped 
abstractedly, without any content ascribed to it as infinite 
form or a personal divination. Yet reason was recognized as 
having boundless power. All that exists, the particular, the 
isolated, is merely a moment for Anaxagoras, everything 
determinate is dissolved in his Nous, its essence is negation 
itself as is to be expected. Being is reflected in itself, it has 
renounced the modifying exterior and settled on essence as 
its truth. Now essence is determined by thought and con- 
sequently the latter possesses the absolute power of negation, 
the power of ia corroding acid which decomposes everything, 
combines with everything to volatilize it. In short, thought 
realized itself as a power before which all principles but its 
own disappear. Everything that has been firmly established 
in being, in conceptions, in law and beliefs began to totter and 
fall. Whatever was touched by the hot flames of thought 
which like the angel of death destroyed with merry abandon 
and rejoiced amid the ruins without giving thought to what 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 169 

they were to be replaced by proved to be unsteady and 
dependent. This unlimited latitude of negation, this idea which 
demolished the sound principles and scourged the false was 
expressed by the Sophists. They were terrible in their sincerity 
and terrible in their versatility; they were popular and in the 
very thick of life, no strangers to all the questions of the street 
and science. They were public orators, political men, teachers 
of the people and metaphysicians. Their minds were supple 
and resourceful, their language was intrepid and insolent. 
That is why they could, openly and boldly, express what the 
Greeks did in practical life but concealed from everybody, 
even from themselves, fearing to discover whether they did 
well or not to act as they did, yet too weak not to trespass 
against the positive law. The Sophists were accused of im- 
morality because they brought to the light of day what had 
been concealed by darkness, because they divulged the family 
skeleton of Greek life. In practical spheres, in his acts, man 
is seldom so abstract as in his mode of thinking. Here he is 
subconsciously versatile because his entire being is involved. 
The Greeks of the times of Pericles could not live freely 
within the bounds fixed for them by sacred ancestral tradi- 
tions, as customs unalterable for them. This life was indeed 
charming in the Iliad and in Sophocles's tragedies but they 
were already head and shoulders above it. They felt it but 
some kind of tacit agreement kept them from avowing it. 
While daily violating their hereditary traditions they were 
prepared to stone any one who dared to raise his voice against 
them, to give their deed a name iand refuse to regard it as a 
crime. This is one of those deceitful hypocrisies to which man 
has constant recourse, imagining it to foe highly moral. While 
admitting verbally that traditions were sacred, the Greek yet 
avoided fulfilling his duties at every step, but he did this 
furtively as a criminal or a rebellious slave might. The crime 
of the Sophists and, later, of Socrates, was that they raised to 
the sphere of universal consciousness what everybody con- 
sidered to be a particular case or an exception, that they 
vindicated by thought the fact of moral freedom, that they 
recognized fear of Homeric tradition exactly for what it was. 
They fearlessly allowed the light of thought to play on every- 



170 A. HER ZEN 

thing in existence and subjected everything to an analysis. 
Through them science, having reached the heights it had, 
turned suddenly back upon the whole body of truths, received 
and transmitted by public opinion. The result was what might 
have been expected; paganism and all ancient Hellenic con- 
ceptions could not withstand its Medusa's gaze and withered 
under it. But what followed was not Olympic mirth, but the 
ringing laughter of man elated by his victory. At first the 
Sophists probably yielded frivolously to the consciousness of 
this terrible power of mind. They forgot themselves in this 
joyful saturnaliia and amused themselves, playing with their 
power that was the moment of the poetic enjoyment of 
thought. From a sheer excess of power, they took pleasure in 
tearing off the veils of what was inconsistent in the positive, 
and their joy knew no bounds. Let us not rebuke them: ere 
long a tragic figure is to appear in the history of reason and 
suggest another vocation to thought; lie* is to discipline their 
wild life by moral principles and consecrate himself to ia great 
sacrifice in the name of a great victory. In the meantime the 
Sophists had prepared their compatriots for this moment. They 
had let the light of thought play upon all human relations; 
thanks to them science openly entered life. They taught man 
to rely on himself alone, to attribute everything to himself, 
to consider himself to be ia self-sufficient centre around which 
everything in the world revolves in a whirl of modifications. 
But in the name of what should he consider himself this 
central point? This is an essential and inevitable question. 
The Sophists did not solve this question which proceeded 
directly from their first principles, or rather, it was not solved 
by those Sophists whom history is pleased to call so, for it 
was precisely the question posed by the great Sophist, 
Socrates, who shared their poinl of view but who outstripped 
them all in the scope of his thought and the grandeur of his 
character. It was not a youth on a spree but a grown man 
who had paused to seek a foothold for the rest of his life, a 
man firm of step and mighty in his strength. Socrates dealt 
the existing order in Greece a heavier blow than all the 



* Socrates. A.H. 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 171 

Sophists taken together. He went further than they did pre- 
cisely because he was their enemy The Sophists were the 
brilliant Girondists while Socrates was a Montagnard, but one 
who was moral and pure. The views of the Sophists contained 
a world of the personal and the rationalistic, in them thought 
had not yet gained a firm footing (as is always the case in 
reflection). They tested the formal power of thought, so to siay. 
They were ready to prove everything and justify everything. 
However, that proved nothing; it is possible to find a good 
side even to the most reprehensible act 'but that is no justifica- 
tion in itself and implies solely that there are no purely 
abstract acts any more than there are any purely one-sided 
phenomena. The genuinely firm basis lies in that objective 
first principle of thought which the Sophists, before Socrates's 
time, had not discovered. Socrates found logical development 
at a point where it recognized the unsoundness of the external 
world if compared with thought, and man (i.e., a thinking in- 
dividual) as truth. Man, however, considered as a particular 
individuality, perishes, involving thought in his own destruc- 
tion. Socrates saved thought and its objective significance 
from the personal and, consequently, fortuitous element. He 
pronounced to be essence not the individual ego but the uni- 
versal as good, reposing-in-itself consciousness, independent 
of real existence. Socratean thought is as corrosive iand 
virulent as the thought of Protagoras who said that man was 
the measure of lall things and contained a definition of why 
the existing exists and why the non-existing does not exist. 
Socrates, however, perceived in the general movement a 
principle of repose. This principle, the essence maintained and 
determined by purpose, is the truth and the good. This good, 
this essential purpose, does not exist as something ready; man 
has to create his eternal and intransient contents, to develop 
it through his consciousness in order to be free in it. Thus, 
for Socrates, the truth of the objective is developed by thought. 
That was the (affirmation of man's infinite subjectivity and 
the absolute liberty of self-cognition, that great cornerstone 
laid by Socrates at the foundation of that great edifice which 
still remains unfinished. This cornerstone is, at the same time, 



172 A. HER ZEN 

a boundary post: half of it lies already outside Hellenic soil 
and the antique world. 

Socnates had no system, but he had a method. It was, 
indeed, a live and ever active organ of human thought. His 
method consisted in the development of self-cogitation. What- 
ever aspect of the object he chanced upon, having begun with 
the total one-sidedness of a generality, he would arrive at the 
most mu4ti-sided truth, never losing sight, however, of his 
principal ideas which he led through all spheres both practical 
and theoretical. Man must develop from within himself, find 
in himself, understand what is his predestination, his purpose, 
the ultimate goal of the world; he must arrive at the truth 
through himself. This is the mark which Socrates attains in 
everything, and, incidentally, it transpires that in proportion 
as thought attains inner objectivity the accidental and person- 
al is destroyed and lost: the truth becomes thought that is 
being eternally established. All his dialogues were an unend- 
ing battle with what existed. He rebelled against the sacred 
Athenian traditions in the name of another sacred right the 
right of eternal morality, of the autonomy of thought. He 
cautioned against the acceptance of ready-made opinions, 
truths taken for granted and not even discussed, so familiar 
did they seem, yet which everybody interpreted in his own 
way in the certainty that his opinion was what wias generally 
accepted. He dared to place truth higher than Athens, reason 
higher than narrow nationalism. He took, in relation to 
Athens, the same stand as Peter I took in relation to Russia. 
The most majestic teaching of Socrates was he himself: his 
grave and tragic face, his practical activity, and his death. 
He typified and represented that fusion of all elements in 
ancient life which we have already had several occasions to 
mention: ia man who constantly took part in public discourses, 
an artist, a warrior, a judge, he examines every theoretical 
and practical issue of his age, is always lucid and true to 
himself, ever anxious for the good, and subjugating every- 
thing to reason, that is to say, liberating everything in 
moral consciousness 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 173 

In those days learning drew upon life and was submerged 
in it. The activity of a philosopher in Greece was not confined 
to his school within whose walls the debates might have 
gone on for centuries before anybody ever heard of them. The 
philosopher was par excellence a people's teacher and 
counsellor. A crown was offered to Empedocles and Heracli- 
tus. Zeno fell in a heroic war. Love and respect for 
Pythagoras verged on worship. Pericles wialked in an Atheni- 
an square with his wife, supplicating pardon for Anaxagoras. 
Philip of Macedonia blessed his fate for his son having been 
born in the days of Aristotle. Plato was called Divine by the 
Athenians. Only when the philosophers of the ancient world 
had discerned, with anguish in their hearts, the fatal disease 
consuming the ancient order of things, did they retire from 
public affairs. Socrates was as much a statesman as a thinker 
and was put on trial as a citizen who wielded immense in- 
fluence and undermined inviolable standards of Athenian life 
in the name of the right of investigation. The tragedy of 
Socrates's fate (as he himself was perfectly aware, judging by 
his discourses in prison from which he did not want to flee) 
was precisely that he was right in the eyes of mankind and 
guilty in the eyes of Athens. From this contradiction, so sharp 
and glaring, it is clear that Greek life had begun to decay due 
to its one-sidedness. The national was already outdated, once 
the national judgement could be diametrically opposed to the 
judgement of reason. That was why Socrates came out in arms 
against Athens and that wias why it was impossible to save 
the city by executing him. Nay, the death of the philosopher 
proved that he was right. The Athenians themselves realized 
it ere long. Blind persecutors realize only on the next day that 
the execution is pernicious. 

The revolution made by Socrates in thought consisted 
precisely in that thought had become an object in itself. It is 
from him the conception dates that truth is not essence as it is 
but as it appears in consciousness, that truth is cognized 
essence. Mark this well: c'est le mot de I'enigme of all phi- 
losophy. After Socrates, thought concentrates on itself, delves 
further into itself in order to develop consciously the unity 
of itself and its object, nature ceases to be independent of 



174 A. HERZEN 

thought. Socrates's views did not, however, go so far. One of 
the salient points of his doctrine which, by its one-sidedness, 
was especially conspicuous in the Hellenic world was his 
neglect of everything outside philosophy and especially of 
natural science. Socrates often repeated the expression has 
become proverbial that all his knowledge consists in that he 
knows nothing and he was right. By his powerful dialectics 
he dissolved a whole body of traditionally formed opinions 
which had passed for knowledge. That was a negative disen- 
gagement of thought from real contents, and not yet its true 
contents; he recognized in thought and consciousness a live 
form of truth, but these were not yet really filled with real 
contents. He conquered the past but the new had no time to 
grow on its fresh grave, though its cradle already existed. 
Hence that unintelligible appearance in Socrates of the daemon, 
who is invoked by the incompleteness of the Socratean concep- 
tion. If the contents of thought had been really complete there 
would have been no need for any daemon there would have 
been no room for him.* 

What was one-sided in the doctrine of Socrates was not 
supplemented by his early followers. But it was not the 
Megarian school or that of the Cyrenaics that his great 
shadow invoked but the beautiful and luminous personality of 
Plato who finally appeared to complete the edifice for which 
Socrates had laid the cornerstone. 

Proclaiming the right of independent reason, Socrates con- 
ceived it as the essence and purpose of self-cognizing will. 
Now Plato, from the outset, posited thought to be the essence 
of the universe and tried to bring under its sway all things 
that exist perhaps even to a greater extent than was needful. 
I have mentioned above that the stone laid by Socrates over- 

* Aristotle pointed, with the greatest perspicacity, to the abstract 
character of Socrates's doctrine. "Socrates speaks on virtue better than 
Pythagoras but he is wrong: he regards virtue as knowledge. All knowl- 
edge has logos (rational foundation) and logos is in thought alone. He 
sees all virtues in knowledge and removes the alogical aspect of the soul, 
that is, passions, feelings, character. Virtue is no science. Socrates has 
made logos out of virtue, while we say: virtue is with logos! It is not 
knowledge, but it cannot be without knowledge." Aristotle defined virtue 
as the "unity of reason and unreasonableness." A.M. 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 176 

lapped the boundary of the ancient world. That might, with 
still more justification, be applied to the platonic conception. 
What we call the romantic element appeared for the first time 
in him. He was a poet-idealist, there was a streak in his nature 
which, under certain conditions, must inevitably have develt 
oped into Alexandrian Neoplatonism. Plato held that the 
spiritual world of science was the only true one, as distinct 
from the phantom world of existence. That true world is 
revealed to man through thought which, by a succession of 
remembrances, awakes and evolves the truth, slumbering and 
forgotten in the soul abandoned to the physical being. Once 
brought into consciousness, the awakened ideal world proves 
to be the truth of the real world, its fulfilment, and abides in 
majestic repose, having renounced the vanities of transient 
being, and preserving this renounced world in itself. Thus 
genus is the truth of the species, the universal is the truth of 
the particular, and, similarly, the idea is the truth of the uni- 
verse. Plato holds that the transient, physical being is a barrier 
to absolute knowledge; saying which he seems to forget that 
it is yet also a prerequisite of being and knowledge. Do not 
think, however, that this romantic element, or rather the ele- 
ment including something romantic, is an exhaustive definition 
of platonic thought far from it! You had better recollect that 
the ancients called him the architect of dialectics. That is 
where his power and energy really lay, that is where he arrived 
at his profound speculative philosophy which preserved a 
degree of idealism which bore the imprint of his personality 
and that of the rising epoch, yet did not hamper his free 
thought. Plato is compared by many with Schelling. We also 
did so in our first letter, and, true enough, the poetical thought 
of Plato, which delighted in arraying itself in the luxurious 
vestments of myths and allegories, is, in the modern world, 
closest to Schelling's poetic presage of truth and his ardent 
aspirations to it. Yet Plato has outstripped him precisely by his 
irresistible dialectics and even more by his complete, lucid 
idea of the dialectic method and of the movement of logic in 
general. Schelling formulates the ready-made contents of his 
thought in scholastic form, while Plato reaches, in his dis- 



176 A. HERZEN 

courses, truth through dialectics: for him truth is inalienable 
from his method. 

Plato gave an excellent exposition of the development of 
knowledge in his book On the Republic. The initial stage or 
the point of departure of the logical movement is, according to 
him, spontaneous intuition, sensuous consciousness passing 
into sensuous notion, into what is called opinion. The second 
degree of knowledge, intermediary between opinion and 
science, is the sphere of investigation through reasoning, 
through reflection; it is the attainment of general and abstract 
first principles, the assumption of hypotheses, arbitrary ex- 
planations (all physical and, indeed, all positive sciences have 
arrived at this stage in our day). This is where scientific 
knowledge proper begins, but it is not yet attained: the rational 
sciences never attain dialectical clarity for, as Plato observes, 
they proceed from hypotheses and do not ascend in their 
analysis to the absolute first principle; their argument is based 
on conjectures; their thought seems to be not in their object 
for were it so, the objects themselves would be thoughts. The 
method used in geometry and allied sciences he calls rational 
assuming that ratiocination is intermediary between intellec- 
tual and sensuous contemplation. The third degree, at last, is 
cogitation in itself, comprehending thought. It assumes a hy- 
pothesis not as the first principle but as a point of departure 
leading to the first principle which contains nothing conjectur- 
al at all. Plato calls this degree dialectics. In our ordinary 
consciousness, that is immediately real which is furnished by 
our sensuous perception, and the rational definitions thereof. 
But Plato tries everywhere, in all his discourses, to reveal the 
unreality and inconsistency of the sensuous and rational, taken 
alone, their unsoundness when confronted with the speculative 
and the ideal. These struggles can reveal that the fire of nega- 
tion flowed in his veins too, that the heritage of the Sophists 
still lingered within him, and not only lingered but had, indeed, 
been transformed into enormous power. The nature of his 
genius, however, was not abstractedly destructive but, on the 
contrary, conciliatory. He extracted the intransient from the 
transient, the universal from the particular, genus from the 
mdividuums not only to demonstrate the reality and truth of 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 177 

the universal and thus eclipse the particular, to destroy what 
is individual, concrete, particular; no, he extracted the generic 
element in order to save it from the vortex of transient exist- 
ence, and more, in order to do what nature cannot do without 
human thought that is tc say to reconcile them. Here Plato 
is a speculative philosopher and not a romanticist. He calls the 
idea what is universal, generic and fixed in thought; arriving 
at the idea he tries to give it a definition and at this point his 
dialectics becomes conciliatory and cancels, in itself, the con- 
tradictions pointed out by it. The determinateness of the idea 
consists in that unity, remains itself in diversity. The sensuous, 
diverse, finite, relatively extant, is not true for others it is an 
unresolved contradiction which is resolved in the idea alone; 
but the idea does not lie outside the object: it is both what 
tends to self-definition through diversity and what abides free 
and single in this diversity. Plato remarks that the truest and 
most difficult thing is to show the same in other and other in 
the same, and in such a way as to enable the other to be the 
same to some other. What a magnificent idea! Yet just 
imagine how the crowd would hoot down a thinker who would 
appear in our days with a speech so queer for ordinary minds. 

The respect transmitted throughout the ages for the ancient 
philosophers is based on the fact that nobody ever reads them. 
If our worthy people would consult them they would discover 
that Plato and Aristotle were as cracked as Spinoza and Hegel 
and used just as obscure a language to say nothing of 
absurdities. Most men of our days (I mean those who regard 
themselves as scholars) have grown so unaccustomed, or have 
never been accustomed at all, to definitions of thought that 
these do not shock them, only when they resort to them uncon- 
sciously. Nobody is surprised, for instance, that man is physio- 
logically something indivisible, a single entity an atom, 
while anatomically he is a great multitude of the most diverse 
parts that our body is both our ego and our other. Nobody is 
surprised by the process of origin constantly at work about us, 
that muffled struggle of being and non-being without which it 
would be mere indifference. Nobody is surprised at this pei- 
manence of transience around us. Put into words what these 
worthy people see and feel daily and they will not under- 

12-1157 



178 A. HERZEN 

stand you and never recognize their intimate friends in your 
description. I am sure that many would be greatly shocked to 
learn the ultimate inference at which Plato arrives everywhere, 
armed with his relentless dialectics and his genius capable of 
penetrating into the innermost core of truth. For Plato, the 
absolute is what is both finite and infinite simultaneously; that 
which can contain within itself its own opposite is powerful 
and full of spirit and vigour. Body (taken in itself) perishes 
in encountering opposition, while spirit is able to withstand 
any opposition; it lives in this opposition and is abstract with- 
out it. The infinite taken alone, in itself (Plato says as much 
in no uncertain terms), is inferior to what is limited and finite 
because it is indefinite. The finite has its purpose and measure, 
while the infinitely abstract being, if determinate, is not only 
external but is precisely unity in diversity; it is alone real and 
as it grows conscious it is elevated above the finite and 
furnishes the medium for eternal repose and contemplation 
beyond which platonic thought does not go and which it does 
not want to leave. This last word of Plato, that reign of the 
idea in a state of repose and self-contemplation represents all 
that is excellent, and all that is one-sided in his conception. 
In historical retrospect, too, he was, for his predecessors, that 
lucid and serene sea towards which they bore their waters. He 
had fulfilled their destinies, as it were, and becalmed them on 
his great bosom. Parmenides, Heraclitus, Pythagoras, Anaxa- 
goras, the Sophists, Socrates, had all equally found room in the 
platonic conception and yet his thought was his thought. The 
tributaries were lost in the sea though fhey were in it and 
though, without them, the sea would not have existed. 
However, to sustain our simile: the sea was infinitely broad, 
the shores out of sight and that is the whole trouble. Water 
and air are elements in which man lacks something; he is fond 
of the earth and the diversity of life and not an elemental in- 
finity which amazes one and keeps one amazed for a long 
time but that is a state one cannot remain in for ever. In 
this space with its shores invisible because of the distance lies 
the strength of Plato. Tranquillized in the bliss of contempla- 
tion he thought to forget those shores. In vain! The fantastic 
images and notions tormenting his spirit forced their way into 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 178 

his dialectics revealing their passionate features in the calm 
waters of pure thought. They came uncalled for. Of what 
dialectic use were they? No logical necessity made them surge 
up in Plato's soul any more than it did Socrates's daemon. They 
came to substitute the lost, transient things. They had that 
aspect of beauty which, though denied to abstract thought, is 
dear to man's heart. They disturbed the majestic- tranquillity 
of pure speculation, and Plato welcomed this disturbance as a 
seafarer welcomes the sight of clouds which break the dead 
monotony of the ever mute heavens. 

Plato's views on nature were poetically contemplative rather 
than scientifically speculative. He begins with notions in 
Timaeus\ the Demiurge arranges and harmonizes chaotic 
substance; he animates it and gives it the cosmic soul. Willing 
to produce a world like unto himself, in the heart of the world 
the Demiurge placed the soul pervading all things. The 
platonic universe is a single animate and intelligent being.* 
"Do we therefore rightly conclude," he demands, "that there 



* Let us mention here, in passing, the theology of the ancient world. 
It is the weakest side of its philosophy. It is significant that the Neoplaton- 
ics discarded all the questions which had formerly occupied them for 
theodicy. The pagan world was in this respect extremely inconsistent. 
A thinking person could not stop at the conceptions of polytheism. It was 
imipossible indeed to content oneself with Olympus and the good old 
Greeks who lived on it. Xenophanes, the Eleatic, says: "If oxen or lions 
had hands, oxen would make gods like oxen, horses would make gods like 
horses." But having renounced the traditional notions the Greeks could 
neither reconcile their philosophic outlook with that of religion nor could 
they sacrifice paganism at one stroke. They could go on only by accepting 
paganism as a substitute for thought, a paganism that was indefinite, 
shaky, hesitant. That is why neither Nous, nor the soul of the world, nor 
the Demiurge, not even the entelechy of Aristotle satisfied them entirely. 
Religion for them is always an accident, deus ex machina. They suddenly 
take a leap from pure thought to religious conception, and leave both in 
the domain of irreconcilable contradiction. Herein lies one of the limita- 
tions of the Greek views. Do not expect a pagan to give a complete 
answer to a question concerning the divine. Whether he admits it or denies 
it he is equally wrong. It occurred to Cicero to formally reconcile ancient 
religion with philosophy. His interests were neither religious nor phil- 
osophical. He was a statesman and wrote for the public benefit prosaic 
tracts de natura deorum and vainly interpreted a la Ducis the great learn- 
ing of the Greeks. 4./f. 



180 A. HER ZEN 

is but one universe; or is it more right to assert that there are 
many and infinite? But indeed there can be but one" ... for 
were there two, they would be parts that would again con- 
stitute a whole. 

Plato assumes fire and earth to be the primary elements: 
". . , the Divinity, beginning to fabricate, composed the body of 
the universe from fire and earth. But it is impossible for two 
things alone to cohere together without the intervention of a 
third; for a certain collective bond is necessary in the middle 
of the two. And that is the most beautiful of 'bonds which 
renders both itself and the natures which are bound remarka- 
bly one. . . ." 

As you see in this lofty thought about connection is already 
latent the possibility of development into conception, idea, 
subjectivity. That platonic idea (as many other thoughts of 
his- or his adherents) has been repeated to this very day in 
vain and does not seem to have been appreciated by anybody. 
The physical world has, for its extreme definitions, a solid 
element and a living element (earth and fire). "But now it 
is requisite that the world should be a solid; and solids are 
never harmonized together by one, but always with the 
mediums. Hence, the Divinity placed water and air in the 
middle of fire and earth, and fabricated them as much as pos- 
sible in the same ratio to each other; so that fire might be to 
air as air to water; and that as air is to water so water might 
be to earth." 

That duality of the medium furnishes Plato with the principal 
number of everything natural four thai very figure which 
the Pythagoreans held to be really complete. The logical in- 
ference, syllogism, is constituted of three moments precisely 
oecause the medium, which is diffused in nature, fuses in 
rational unity; the conciliatory medium in nature is dual; it 
offers a contradiction as it is to be found in nature unrecon- 
ciled. The artificer ". . . accurately polished the external 
circumference of the spherical world and rendered it perfectly 
smooth. Its spherical shape contains all forms; its equilibrium 
can never be disturbed; it has no distinction from other." To 
have an external distinction is a feature of the finite: the 
exterior is not for itself but for another object. Now, the 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 181 

universe is all objects; so the idea contains determinateness, 
differentiation, limitation and other-being; yet all this is 
dissolved and cancelled in it by unity, and therefore continues 
to be such a distinction as does not pass out of itself. Accord- 
ing to Plato, the Divinity took something of the essence, ever 
identical with itself iand indivisible, and something of the 
essence, corporeal and divisible, and combined the two; in this 
unity is combined nature, identical with itself and with other, 
with nature different from itself; and he made this combina- 
tion, the living soul, be the pervading medium between the 
divorced. Note Plato's expression, with other. He does not say: 
other than what? and herein lies the profound speculative 
meaning of his expression. It is an other, not as compared 
with something but in itself. He assembled these three essences 
in a still higher unity, in which they preserved their distinct- 
ness while remaining identical in the idea. The reign of the 
idea is, in its permanence, an ideal inaccessible to the aspiring 
world; it has its image or its imprint in the world, finite and 
abandoned to time. Yet this world which is striving through 
the transient to eternity has, in turn, as opposed to itself, still 
another world whose very essence is transience and change- 
ability. So, the eternal world, placed in time, is realized in two 
forms in the world of self-reconciliation and in the world of 
wandering self-distinction. 

From all this we may deduce three definite moments: first, 
amorphism, invisibility ready to assume any shape, substance, 
matter, recipient medium, the universal matron nursing her 
charge for self-subsistent being. Form is realized by it and it 
passes into form itself; it is passive matter which makes 
everything valid. With its help arise the phenomena of external 
being, of individuality in which duality is irreconcilable yet 
what does manifest itself is not purely material but something 
universal, ideal. In contemplating nature, Plato never confuses 
the two principles in it: "the necessary and the divine," the 
subjected and the dominant, what is based on interaction and 
on itself. Without the necessary it is impossible to ascend to 
the divine herein lies its visible significance but the autonomy 
of the divine lies in itself alone. Thus in man he distinguishes 
what belongs to his immortal soul (the divine) and whai 



182 A. HER ZEN 

belongs to his mortal soul (the necessary) . All passions belong 
to the mortal soul and in order to keep these passions from 
molesting 1 the divine soul God separated it from the mortal 
soul by the neck, this "isthmus and boundary, that the two 
extremes might be separate from each other." With the heart 
he conjoined the lungs, soft and bloodless, in order that they 
might relieve the heart when it is wrapped in the fire of ire. The 
lungs are porous and so constituted as to be able to absorb the 
air and moisture and thus cool the scorching heat of the heart. 
Enlarging upon the constitution of the body, Plato says the 
following about the liver:* 

"However, as the Divinity perceived that this part would 
not be obedient to .reason ... and would be ... hurried 

away by images and phantasms Considering this, 

he constituted the form of the liver, and placed it in the habita- 
tion of this desiderative part . . . that the power of cogitations, 
descending from intellect into the liver as into a mirror receiv- 
ing various resemblances and exhibiting images to the view, 
might at one time terrify this irrational nature by employing 
a kindred part of bitterness and introducing dreadful 
threats . . . For those who composed us ... so constituted the 
depraved part of our nature that it might become connected 
with truth; establishing in this part a prophetic knowledge of 
future events. But that Divinity assigned domination to human 
madness may be sufficiently inferred from hence; that no one 
while endued with intellect becomes connected with a divine 
and true prophecy; but this alone takes place either when the 
power of prudence is fettered by sleep, or suffers some muta- 
tion through disease, or a certain enthusiastic energy: it being 
in this case the employment of prudence to understand what 
was asserted either sleeping or waking by a prophetic and 
enthusiastic nature; and so to distinguish all the phantastic 
appearances as to be able to explain what and to whom any- 
thing of future, past, or present good is portended. But it is by 
no means the office of that which abides and is still about to 

* The ancients ascribed a rather strange physiological function to the 
liver. They considered it the source of dreams, misled probably by the 
abundance of blood in this organ. But the point is not Plato's opinion of 
the liver but what he had to say in connection with it. A.H. 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 1,83 

abide in this enthusiastic energy, to judge of itself either con- 
cerning the appearances or vociferations. Hence it was well 
said by the ancients, that to transact and know his own con- 
cerns and himself, is alone the province of a prudent man!" 
I could not resist the temptation of quoting these lines. What a 
deep sense for the truth guided the thought of the ancient phi- 
losophers! As you see, Plato understood clearly that the normal 
state of a spiritually and physically healthy man is far superior 
to any abnormal cataleptic, magnetic consciousness. In our 
day you will come across a host of people who give themselves 
the airs of philosophers and are convinced that clairvoyance 
is purer, higher and more spiritual than the possession of 
simple and ordinary mental faculties just as you find sages 
who consider the highest truth only what cannot be expressed 
by words and consequently is so personal and accidental that 
it is lost as soon as it is generalized by the word. 

Plato's views of nature cannot be taken for a typical example 
of how the ancients regarded natural science. His striving 
toward the idea of repose in which everything transient 
subsided, the romantic chord which vibrated in his heart, his 
spiritual kinship to Socrates all that prevented him from 
dwelling for long on nature. Therefore, after having defined, in 
the most general outlines, the stage represented by Plato, let 
us pass on to the last and finest representative of Hellenic 
science. 

Aristotle is an empiricist in the highest sense of the word. 
He takes everything from his immediate environment takes 
it as the particular, as it is. But once taken from experience, it 
never escapes his powerful hand; what he has taken does not 
preserve its self-sufficiency as a contradiction to thought; he 
never releases the object until he exhausts all its definitions, 
until its innermost essence manifests itself as a lucid, clear- 
cut idea and therefore this empiricist is also, in the highest 
degree, a speculative thinker. Hegel remarked once that the 
empirical taken in its synthesis is a speculative notion in 
itself; it is just towards this notion that modern science is 
striving. The notion, however, does not reveal itself before it 
has traversed the whole path of thought, and before Aristotle 
has subjected all the objects to his terrible power of analysis, 



184 A. HER ZEN 

made them run the gauntlet or, to borrow an expression from 
chemistry, before he has sublimated them into thought. 
Aristotle begins with empirical facts, with the undeniable fact 
of an event. This is his point of departure it is not the cause 
but the beginning (Initium), the element preceding the cause, 
and being the first, it is essential, inevitable. He in- 
volves this empirical in the process of thought, smelts it in the 
fire of his analysis, and elevates it with himself to the heights 
of intelligence. There are no inert definitions for him, nothing 
immobile, solid, stagnant; there are no dead philosophemes. He 
flees repose and does not long for it and that is an advance 
on Plato. The idea could not remain for ever an unclouded 
firmament free from the tribulations of the ephemeral con- 
templation which finds its happiness in the absence or the 
muteness of everything particular. In spite of the quietist 
character in Plato, the idea was, indeed, ready to manifest 
itself in further self-definitions yet it still continued in repose. 
Aristotle launched it on an active process, and everything 
solid, or what seemed to be solid, was involved in the universal 
movement, grew alive and returned again to the ephemeral, 
without losing the eternal. The idea in itself considered in its 
universality is not yet real, it is merely a universality, a sup- 
position of reality, its conclusion, if you will, but not reality 
itself. The idea, wrested from the vortex of activity and exist- 
ing outside it, is something insufficient, inert, and sluggish. 
Activity is the only thing that offers full life but it is not 
easily grasped. It is incomparably easier to conceive the 
universal as something abstract. Movement is complicated in 
itself; it is divaricated, split into two opposite moments; it 
can only be grasped by a quick, keen eye, it should be caught 
on the wing; while what is abstract is calm and obedient to 
reason and calls for no haste any more than a dead thing does. 
Hamlet was right when he assured the king that there was no 
need to hurry to Polonius's corpse; it could wait. A dead 
abstraction exists only in man's mind. There is no self-motion 
in it (if we separate from it the ever urgent dialectical need of 
the mind to leave the domain of abstraction). 

Aristotle seeks the truth of an object in its purpose, he tries 
to determine the cause by the purpose. The purpose presupposes 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 185 

movement. Purposive movement is development, which is the 
most perfect realization of itself, "the realization of the good 
as far as possible." "Everything and all nature have the 
realization of the good as their purpose"; the latter is an active 
first principle, logos, which disturbs the universal substratum 
(substantiality), stirring it to activity, which attains its own 
fulfilment through it and in it; which is plunged along with it 
into movement, yet possesses it to save the universal in a 
stream of changes. Such movement is not a mere modification 
but is activity. Activity is also constant change but one which 
preserves itself through all the changes while in mere change 
nothing is preserved for there is nothing to be preserved. Move- 
ment, change, activity, presuppose some field, some passive 
element in which they take place. This substratum is inert, 
abstract substance; all things that exist have invariably a 
material aspect but substance in> itself is only a possibility, an 
arrangement, a passive frame, abstract and universal. It 
imparts to activity definite possibility, practical feasibility. 
Substance is a prerequisite, the conditio sine qua non of 
development. Hence the two Aristotelian elements dynamy 
and energy, potentiality and actuality, substratum and form, 
fused in that supreme unity where the aim is at the same time 
its fulfilment (entelechy). Dynamy and energy are the thesis 
and antithesis of the process of reality. They are indissoluble, 
and are true in their existence alone; taken separately, they 
are abstract (this cannot be too often repeated, since the 
grossest errors arise from precisely this tendency to keep 
matter and form in unnatural separation). Substance, without 
form, inert, and abstracted from activity, does not constitute 
the truth but is a logical moment, that is, one aspect of truth. 
Form, on its part, is impossible without substance. There can 
be no reality without possibility; that would be plain nonsense. 
Actually these two elements are always indissoluble, they do 
not exist apart; the process of life consists in their interrelation 
and their junction. It is in this active process, striving for self- 
fulfilment, that Aristotle attempts to grasp the idea in all its 
scope. The platonic idea accomplished, having cancelled its 
negation, as it were, has found an internal harmony, lives in 
majestic repose; Plato, indeed, adheres to essence but essence 



186 A. HERZEN 

as it is, abstracted from being, is not yet either reality or activ- 
ity. It leads to manifestation just as manifestation leads to 
essence. With Aristotle, essence is inseparable from being: 
therefore it is not at rest. For him the idea is not accomplished 
in abstract absoluteness but as it is being accomplished in 
nature and history, that is, in reality. Let us recapitulate his 
reasoning. 

Activity and possibility find their true and complete unity in 
the idea; in inferior spheres, they are dissociated, opposed to 
each other and only strive for their reconciliation. All that can 
be perceived by the senses constitutes the finite essence in 
which substance and form are separated and external to each 
other. Therein lies the whole meaning of the finite and its 
entire limited character; here essence is suppressed by activity, 
submits to it but does not become activity itself; it passes from 
one form to another, the substance alone remaining per- 
manent this medium where the transformations take place, 
this passive endurance; determinedness and form are in 
negative relation to substance, the moments being divorced, 
and there is no complete harmony in this sensuous combina- 
tion. Now, when activity contains what must be when it has 
within itself the purpose of its aspirations, then movement 
becomes action energy manifests itself as intelligence, the 
substance becoming the subject, the live medium of change; 
and the form the coordination and unity of the two extremes 
matter and thought, of universal passivity and universal 
activity. In sensuous essence, the active principle is still 
separated from substance. Nous prevails over this separation 
but it (Nous) needs substance, it presupposes it, for otherwise 
it has no ground to stand on. Intelligence or Nous is here a 
conception, life-giving and dismembered in its embodiment. 
(Aristotle calls Nous in this case soul, logos, self-moving and 
self-becoming.) The full, the most perfect development is, 
finally, the fusion of dynamy, energy and entelechy, wherein 
everything is reconciled: potentiality is at the same time 
actuality, immobility is eternal movement, it is the eternal in- 
transience of the transient, self-cogitating reason, actus purusl 
Then passive substance, you might observe, is, according to 
Aristotle, the first principle. By no means! For passive -sub- 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 187 

stance is a phantom, an abstraction that only wears the mask 
of actuality and materiality. So speculative a genius as 
Aristotle could hardly have taken as the first principle a dry 
abstraction, an unrealized possibility. Here is what he says: 
Much . . . "which is in capacity may happen not to be. It- 
is requisite, therefore, that there should be such a principle, 

the essence of which is energy A doubt, however, here 

arises: for every thing which energizes appears to have the 
capacity of energizing; but every thing endued with capacity 
does not energize; so that capacity will be prior to energy. But, 
indeed, if this were the case, nothing will have any substance; 
for it will happen, that a thing will have the capacity to be, but 
will not yet be." 

Such speculative absurdity completely refuted, in the eyes of 
his realism, that absurd hypothesis. He goes on to say: "But 
if the case is as theologists assert, who generate all things 
from night, or if as the natural philosophers, who say that all 
things subsisted together, the same impossible consequence 
will ensue. For how could matter be moved if there was no 
cause in energy?" Energy is the prior and highest. (Recollect 
what a remarkable distinction Augustine draws between the 
chronological priority and the priority of dignity, prioritas 
dignilatis.) Substance is passive; pure action anticipates 
possibility not in time but in essence. Expediency advances, 
reveals this priority. 

True to his principles, Aristotle begins physics with move- 
ment and its elements (space and time) and proceeds from the 
universal to the isolated and particular elements of the material 
world, never however losing sight of his principal idea the 
live flow, the process. Not only does he conceive nature as 
life and therein lies the basis of his studies of nature but 
he considers this life as a single entity, having a purpose in 
itself and identical with itself. It is not transformed into other 
by motion, but evolves its transformations from its contents, 
remaining in it and preserving itself. Everything is in mutual 
reaction, according to him. Beings which fly, swim or vegetate 
are not alien to each other. They themselves represent their 
own mutual relation which can be reduced to unity. There is 
no systematized order in Aristotelian physics: he presents one 



188 A. IIERZEN 

aspect of an object after another and one definition after 
another, without any inherent need, developing every such 
definition to a point of the speculative notion, but without con- 
necting them. For him only one connection exists: that which 
is to be found in nature itself life and movement. But this is 
not enough for science: life does not yet constitute the self-con- 
scious idea in all its entirety. 

Proceeding to the idea of nature, Aristotle first analyzes 
nature as a cause, acting towards some purpose, which has a 
purposeful aspiration, and only then does he turn to necessity 
and its relations. Usually the order is reversed. First what is 
necessary is taken up and the essential is considered to be 
what is determined by purpose and not what arises out of 
external necessity. For a long time the whole conception of 
nature was reduced to demonstrating necessity. Aristotle 
begins with the ideal element of nature; purpose for him is an 
"inner determinateness of the object itself." It contains, ac- 
cording to him, the activity of nature, its self-preservation, 
constant, unflagging, and, consequently, independent of chance 
or accident. The purpose posits both the precedent and the 
sequent, cause and effect; in conformity with it, every par- 
ticular action is related to unity so that the effect is precisely 
the nature of a thing. A thing becomes what it was before. One 
who accepts accidental existence thereby denies nature, for 
the essence of nature is that it actuates itself; nature is what 
achieves its own goal. The nature of a thing is the universal 
identical with itself which, so to say, repulses itself, that is, 
realizes itself. But what is being realized, what arises original- 
ly underlay it: it is its purpose, genus, which pre-existed as a 
possibility. From purpose Aristotle proceeds to the medium, to 
the means. "If then it is both by nature and for an end that the 
swallow makes its nest and the spider its web, and plants 
grow leaves for the sake of the fruit and send their roots down 
(not up) for the sake of nourishment, it is plain that this kind 
of cause is operative in things which come to be and are by 
nature." Their instinct compels them to seek a medium which 
conforms to their self-preservation; a means is nothing other 
than a special concept of purpose. Life is a purpose set to 
itself, it attains, reproduces and preserves the organism it has 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 189 

called to life. The plant or animal becomes what it is because 
it lives in the water or in the air it is a closed logical circle. 
This faculty of modification which belongs to living things is 
not a mere accident or the result of the environment alone. 
This faculty is stimulated by the environment, but it is realized 
in the measure to which it corresponds to the idea inherent to 
the animal. "Hence clearly mistakes are possible iri the opera- 
tions of nature also ... if where mistakes occur there was a 
purpose in what was attempted, only it was not attained, so 
must it be also in natural products, and monstrosities will be 
failures in the purposive effort/' Nature contains within itself 
its means, these being its own purpose: it is like a "doctor 
doctoring himself." Speaking about necessity Aristotle wins 
a magnificent victory over the idea of external necessity in the 
development of nature, giving the following example: 

"The current view places what is of necessity in the process 
of production, just as if one were to suppose that the wall of a 
house necessarily comes to be because what is heavy is 
naturally carried downwards and what is light to the top, 
wherefore the stones and foundations take the lowest place, 
with earth because it is lighter, and wood at the top of all. . . . 
Whereas, though the wall does not come to be without these, 
it is not due to these, except as its material cause: it comes to 
be for the sake of sheltering and guarding certain things. 
Similarly in all other things which involve production for an 
end; the product cannot come to be without things which have 
a necessary nature, but it is not due to these (except as its 
material) ; it comes to be for an end." It is the motive force for 
which the necessary is necessary, but the goal does not yield 
to the necessary and, on the contrary, keeps it under its sway, 
hinders it from escaping from purposiveness and restrains the 
external force of necessity. 

I omit the excellent deductions of Aristotle on space and 
time solely for the reason that they might seem too abstract 
to you, and shall proceed to his psychology (which, though, 
might also be called physiology). Now do not imagine, 
however, that what is to follow is the metaphysics of the soul, 
and that Aristotle will, in the manner of the scholastics, set the 
soul before him and apply himself in dead earnest to its 



190 A. HERZEN 

analysis, to discovering what kind of thing it is, whether it is 
simple or complex, spiritual or material. No, the speculative 
genius of Aristotle could not dally with such abstract toys: his 
psychology examines the activity of a living organism, and no 
more. From the very outset he draws a line of demarcation 
between his views and the dualism of metaphysics. He says 
that the. soul is considered as something apart from the body 
in the action of thought, speaking logically, and as something 
inseparable from it in sensation, speaking physiologically, and 
immediately adds by way of explanation: 

"The physiologist, however, and he who is skilled in dialec- 
tic, will define differently each of theses as for instance, what 
anger is; for the latter will define it to be the appetite of in- 
flicting reciprocal molestation, or something of this kind; but 
the former, the fervor of blood or heat about the heart. But of 
these, the one assigns matter, and the other, form and reason; 

for reason is the form of a thing Thus, with respect .to a 

house, one definition of it will be that it is a shelter from wind, 
rain and heat; another will assert it to be stones, tiles and 
wood; and another says it is the form of these (stones, tiles, 
and wood) for the sake of these things." Soul is the energy 
by which potentiality is transformed into reality, the essence 
of the organic body, its elo<;* by means of which it becomes, 
as far as that is possible, an animate body. The soul attains 
a form most appropriate to it that is what it is active for. 
"Hence, it is not necessary to investigate," Aristotle remarks, 
"whether the soul and body are one; just as it is not 
necessary to investigate wax, and its form nor, in short, the 

matter of each thing, and that of which it is made " What 

is interesting in the relation of the soul to the body is not 
whether they are identical or not. The essential question is, 
according to Aristotle, whether the activity is identical with 
its organ. The material aspect is only the possibility and not 
the reality of the soul: the substantial element of the eye is 
vision; deprive it of its faculty of sight and the meaning is 
lost though the substance remains unchanged. . . . The eye, its 
composite parts, the act of seeing belong to a single entity, 



* Image, idea. Ed. 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 191 

their complete truth lies in their union, and not in their being 
isolated: thus the soul and body constitute a living indis- 
solubility. Aristotle defines the soul in three ways: as nutritive, 
sensitive and rational in accordance with the three principal 
functions of the soul and the three corresponding kingdoms: . 
vegetable, animal and human. The vegetable and animal 
natures are associated in man in a supreme synthesis. Pro- 
ceeding to the relations uniting the three souls, Aristotle 
observes that the vegetative and sensitive souls abide in the 
rational one, the nutritive soul constituting the nature of 
plants; the vegetative soul, the first degree of activity, is also 
present in the sensitive soul, but only as its possibility. It 
exists in it as immediate being-in-itself. The universal, es- 
sential, does not belong to it, yet cannot exist without it; it 
turns from the subject into a predicate, and from the highest 
activity descends to the role of substratum. That is the same 
relation between the animal-vegetative soul and the thinking 
soul: the supreme being of an animal descends in a thinking 
being to the state of one of its natural definitions, of universal 
possibility, both being subjected by it for being-for-itself (that 
is, by entel-echy). How amazingly true and profound is this 
conception of nature! Aristotle left behind not only the Greeks 
but almost all modern philosophers as well. Let us proceed 
with his analysis of the functions of the soul. But the sensitive 
power . . . "is that which is in capacity, and that which is in 

energy" "It suffers, therefore, not being similar; but having 

suffered, it becomes similar, and is such as the sensible 
object," and it is in this passive aspect of sensation stimulated 
by the external that Aristotle finds that which distinguishes it 
from consciousness. The cause of this distinction is that 
sensuous activity has the particular for its object, while knowl- 
edge has the universal, the latter itself constituting, in a way, 
the essence of the soul. For that reason everybody can think 
whenever he will, and thought is free. To feel, however, is not 
within the power of man: sensation calls for an active agent. 
Potentially, sensation is what is sensated, actually; it is 
passive until it rises to the same level as impression; but once 
this level has been attained, it is ready and becomes identical 
with the thing sensated. The energy of that which is 



192 A. HERZEN 

sensible and of sense, is one and the same, but their essence 
is not the same. I say, for instance, sound which is in energy, 
and hearing which is in energy, ... are the same; . . . The 
function of hearing is their unity, sensation being a form of 
their identity, the cancellation of the contradiction between 
the object and the organ. Sensation receives forms without 
matter: thus wax received an imprint taking not the metal 
itself but only its form. This comparison of Aristotle's has 
given rise to interminable controversies on the soul as empty 
space (tabula rasa), filled subsequently with external impres- 
sions alone. However, this comparison does not go so far: wax, 
indeed, takes nothing from the seal; the form pressed on it is 
not essential to it but is just its external contour. Now the soul 
receives form by its very essence, transforming it so that the 
soul is a living and assimilated totality of everything perceived. 
The perception by the soul is active; while perceiving, it 
cancels passivity, liberates itself from it:* the reflection of con- 

* This makes me recall an argument which was going on for a long 
time between the idealists and the empiricists about the first principle of 
knowledge. Some offered consciousness as the first principle; others 
experience. Endless debates were held, fat volumes were written and both 
sides were, evidently, in the wrong because both assumed an abstraction 
for the truth. By his great nisi intellectus?* Leibnitz indicated where the 
solution of the question at issue lay but he was not understood; they 
stamped it a dialectical subterfuge, a distortion of the question and 
demanded the laconic this or that: the priority of experience or conscious- 
ness, la bourse ou la vie\ Now this problem interests nobody. The fact 
that the truth is to be found on both sides and that it is impossible to 
remain in one category without passing into the other, brings one directly 
to the conclusion that the truth consists in the unity pf one-sided defini- 
tions which define neither the one nor the other entirely and each of which 
is indispensable to the other. And what was the aim of the disputants? 
Why were they eager to establish that insignificant chronological priority 
of experience over consciousness, or the other way round? Probably they 
thought that the assertion of this priority would give them ascendency, 
not realizing that no matter in whose favour the question was solved, the 
victory would belong to the adversary. If the beginning of knowledge is 
experience, then this real knowledge should prove that any assuriiption 
anticipating it is not knowledge and, consequently, this assumption must 
be renounced, because it is ignorance. In reality, the beginning is that 
moment of knowledge when it is equal to non- knowledge when it is 
a mere possibility of knowledge transcended by development. Knowledge 
is equally inconceivable without experience or intelligence. If, phenome- 



LETTERS ON. THE STUDY OF NATURE 193 

sciousness supplies distinction again; but this distinction, 
which has already both moments within consciousness and is 
perceived in relation to thought, contains its immediacy, its 
material aspect, without which it is impossible an external 
spark igniting thought. Once brought into existence, thought 
cannot stop. It cannot have a passive attitude to its object for 
it alone is activity. The object of thought manifests itself in the 
form of thought, deprived of the objectivity of the perceived, 
and the two categories of movement are now in thought. There 
is no other existence for thought but active being-for-itself: 
it has no being-in-itself at alt, its being-in-itself, its material 
existence, is precisely its other. ". . . Intellect is in capacity, in 
a certain respect, intelligibles, but is not one of them in 
entelecheia, before it understands or perceives intellectually." 
It lives in action. "But it is necessary to conceive it as of a 
table in which nothing is written in entelecheia/' This example 
was misunderstood just as was the example with the wax. The 
activity here belongs to the book itself, and the external is a 
mere pretext. Of course, reason is the clean slate prior to 
thought. Reason is the dynamy of the cogitated, but it is 
nothing without thinking; and again, it thinks its own self; the 
external cannot write it can but impel the scribe. "Intellect, 
too, understands itself by the assumption of the intelligible: 
for it becomes intelligible by contact and intellection: for that 
intellect is the same with the intelligible. For intellect is the 
recipient of the intelligible, and of essence. But it energizes 
possessing. . . . Since, however, in every nature, there is some- 
thing which is matter to each genus (and this because it is 
all those in capacity), and something which is the cause and 
effective, because it produces all things (in such a manner as 



nally, experience is anterior to consciousness that only means that it 
serves as an external requisite for manifesting the understanding which 
preceded it yet which would remain a mere (possibility unless stimulated 
by experience. Similar abstractions, kept in contradictory polarity, lead to 
antinomies in which contradiction is repeated ad infinitum with a monot- 
ony that is enough to drive one to distraction and which indicates that 
there is something wrong in the problem at issue. Speculative science 
uninterruptedly revolves around these antinomies. We shall have occasion 
to meet them once again. A.H. 

131157 



194 A. HER ZEN 

art is affected with respect to matter) , it is necessary that 
these differences should, also, be inherent in the soul. And the 
one is an intellect of this kind, because it becomes all things; 
but the other, because it produces all things, as a certain habit, 

such, for instance, as light And this intellect is separate, 

unmingled and impassive, since it is in its essence energy; for 
the efficient is always more honourable than the patient, and 
, the principle than matter . . . but separate intellect is alone 
this very thing which it is; and this alone is immortal and 
eternal." If we take Nous to be the faculty of arriving at 
external knowledge iand not activity and if we subjugate 
thought to the results of such knowledge, thought will be in- 
ferior to its own result a dull and poor power of reproduction. 
His analysis of thought Aristotle concludes with the follow- 
ing, purely Hellenic words: life is a high and excellent gift 

that ". . . we enjoy for a small portion of time And on this 

account vigilance, the energies of sense, and intellection are 
most delightful. Hope, too, and memory are pleasing through 
energies. But essential intellection is the intellection of that 
which is essentially the most excellent; and the most essential 
of that which is most essential." So, the energy of thought 
Aristotle ranks above the object of thought. Living thought for 
him is the supreme state of the great process of universal life. 
Here is a Greek for you in all the power and beauty of his 
development! These are the last solemn words of the plastic 
thought of the ancients, the boundary beyond which the 
Hellenic world could not pass if it was to remain its own self. 

Autumn 1844 



LETTER FOUR 

THE LAST EPOCH OF ANCIENT SCIENCE 

ARISTOTLE'S doctrine failed to attain that scientific form which, 
having become self-sufficient in itself and its method, would 
have rendered it independent of its author; it did not attain 
that mature self-sufficiency which would have enabled it to 
stand alone, detached from his personality, and, consequently, 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 195 

could not be fully transmitted to his followers as a heritage 
which needed only to be developed and continued. His science, 
like the empire of his disciple, Alexander the Great, did not 
entirely possess that vitalizing unity, that central pivot to 
which everything would be related. Both lacked what had once - 
been imparted to them by the genius of thought and the 
genius of will. The potentiality of Alexander's empire lay in 
the circumstances of his epoch, while its actuality was to be 
found in him alone; his empire fell to pieces with his death 
and though the consequent events conformed both to his per- 
sonality and contemporary circumstances, the empire could 
not continue as an organic whole, a social individuum. 
Similarly, the conceptions of Plato and his predecessors 
enabled Aristotle to rise to those heights to which his genius 
entitled him. But genius is a question of personality; nobody 
can demand that every peripatetic, for example, should be 
endowed with that talent which would place him on a level 
with Aristotle, a man of genius. All that resulted in a formal, 
dogmatic study of Aristotle, instead of penetrating into the 
spirit that animated his science. His disciples could have com- 
prehended and assimilated Aristotle's doctrine if they had 
first mentally transferred themselves on to his ground, had 
disregarded the words and concerned themselves with their 
meaning. For that, however, to be achieved, the individual will 
of a man of genius had first to become an impersonal method, 
something which mankind had yet to live another two mil- 
lenniums to achieve. In our day, Hegel's achievement lies 
precisely in the fact that he evolved a scientific method which, 
once you have grasped it, makes you forget the personality of 
the author himself who, often to no purpose at all, intrudes his 
Teuton traits and the professorial uniform of the University 
of Berlin, completely oblivious of such incongruities in the 
medium in which they occurred. However, such intrusions of 
personal opinion are so unimportant and untypical in Hegel 
that no one (if he is a gentleman) pays any attention to it, 
and, indeed, Hegel's own method is used to tear to pieces 
those of his deductions which stamp him not as an instrument 
of science but rather as a man unable to disentangle himself 
from the web of trivial and accidental relations; those who 
13* 



196 A. HERZEN 

base themselves on his principles boldly combat his inconsist- 
encies, firmly confident that they are on his side and not 
against him. The stronger a person's influence is, the deeper 
the imprint of his particular individuality, the more difficult 
is it to discern the generic features in it. Now, science is 
precisely generic thought, it belongs to everybody just because 
it belongs to nobody. 

The ethereal principle, the delicate breath of a spirit, pro- 
found and full of a live understanding, which hovered over 
Aristotle's writings, was immediately congealed when it fell 
into the ice-box of his followers' ratiocination. His words were 
repeated with grammatic precision, but the effect was that of 
a death-mask which had preserved every single feature, every 
wrinkle, but had lost the forms of pulsing life. Aristotle could 
not infuse his philosophy into the flesh and blood of his con- 
temporaries and make it one with them; nor were his followers 
or his method prepared for that. He raised the object in hand 
from simple empiricism to the sphere of manifold speculation 
and having exhausted its contents took up another. It is thus a 
fisherman keeps probing the depths to pull up his catch and 
add it to his haul. The sum total of those additions constituted 
the body of Aristotle's science but the means of accomplishing 
this wias again his powerful personality which compensated 
for the deficiency of the method he had discovered, 
for the latter was nothing but formal logic. The secret first 
principle which cemented all the works of Aristotle, certainly 
found no scientific expression anywhere, though traces of it 
could be detected occasionally. That is why his early followers, 
while assimilating what was expressed in scientific form, lost 
everything that belonged to the eagle eye of genius. The omis- 
sions or defects of a great thinker stand revealed not in 
him but in his followers, for it is they who cling 
with a rigid and absolute fidelity to the letter of the word, 
whereas a man of genius, by virtue of the very inner working 
of his spirit, transcends all formal limits, even those set up 
by his own hand. It is exactly this facility to leave the bounds 
of one-sidedness, even those of his age, that constitutes the 
grandeur of genius. Both Aristotle and Plato lost their lustre 
in the philosophic schools that came after them. They remained 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 197 

a kind of benevolent shadow, lofty and inaccessible, to which 
everybody traced their origin and was anxious to adhere but 
which nobody really comprehended. After numerous ramified 
schools, academic and peripatetic, which achieved nothing of 
importance, Neoplatonism made its appearance as the heir to 
all ancient thought, the .consummation of Plato and Aristotle. 
By Neoplatonism, ancient thought passed into the new world. 
But it was more like transmigration than development. We 
shall see that presently. Aristotle's personality was buried, 
along with his body, under the ruins of the ancient world until 
the great Arab resurrected him and brought him to a Europe 
wrapped in the pall of ignorance. The medieval world, which 
had a real craving for chains of every kind, submitted servilely 
to the authority of Aristotle though it comprehended him not 
at all. But in the hands of the doctores seraphici et angelict, 
so humble in their relation to him, Aristotle became a 
scholastic, Jesuitic pater, dull and pedantic. The poor Stagirite 
had to take his full share of the hatred displayed by resurrected 
thought which revolted with the fury of a Luther against 
scholasticism and the fetters of romanticism.* Properly speak- 
ing, there was no scientific movement after Aristotle up to the 



* Anticipating the objections of some philologists we -deem it necessary 
to point out that we have in mind the destiny of Aristotle in the West. In 
the Eastern Empire probably up to the Turks there must have been 
people who read and interpreted ancient philosophers, Aristotle included, 
regarding the latter from their own point of view. The history of science, 
however, has nothing to do with it. It is not bound to occupy itself with 
everything people do everywhere. Everything that deviates from the main 
stream or does not fall into it, what stagnates in backwaters or falls 
exhausted half-way, everything that is accidental or particular, has 
claims to historical importance only if it leaves its mark. Otherwise 
history forgets of its existence and therein lies its great mercifulness. 
Less time is allotted to the teaching of the history of China than to the 
history of any one single city of Italy. Do you really suppose that the 
reason is bias, proximity, or distance? In that case Plutarch must have 
been an extremely partial man. Why else should he have written the 
biographies of Pericles, Alcibia-des and others and not of every Athenian 
citizen? Or else why didn't he include in his biographies a description of 
how his heroes cut their teeth or were weaned? Or how they whined and 
scolded in their dotage, and so on. History, like the French Academy, 
does not offer a place in its ranks to anybody; it examines the claims 
only of those who themselves knock at its doors.- -A.H. 



198 A. HERZEN 

"great reinstation'* of the sciences of the sixteenth century 
(instauratio magna), even though mankind had made 
enormous strides in the interval, which led it to a new world 
of thought and activity. For our purpose we might, without any 
loss, skip from Aristotle to Bacon. Allow me, however, to sum 
up very concisely the time intermediary between Hellenic 
science which ended with Aristotle and modern science and 
which began with Bacon and Descartes and matured in 
the person of Spinoza. 

Entering its final phase, Greek science sought the obvious. 
It accepted only the obvious as the truth. Its demands became 
clearer yet simultaneously more shallow. Its enquiry aimed at 
the external criterion of truth, but sought it in personal thought. 
That criterion is certainly to be found only in thought but in 
thought freed from everything personal. A search for the 
criterion, i.e., a check, from a rationalistic point of view, is 
an insoluble task. The mind which has detached itself from the 
object and taken a negative attitude can apprehend the truth 
as its law but it will never consider this law as the truth of 
the object. And precisely in this alienated concentrated state 
of thought, when thought loses its footing and seems to feel a 
sort of void within, does the need arise for rigorous 
dogmatism; thought seeks to entrench itself, to fortify itself 
against all aggression, unaware that its worst enemy is 
already within its own breast. How could people help but seek 
an invulnerable bulwark within themselves and in their 
theoretical world when everything around them had begun lo 
break down and stood revealed as false or senile? The heyday 
of Greek life was coming to an end. EviJ days, full of suffering 
and humiliation, came to Greece. The conquerors of the East 
had not the power to defend themselves against the rugged 
West. All elements in Greek life were so closely interlinked 
that neither art nor science could survive the civil polily 
without undergoing a change. Hellenic science needed Athens 
but a self-confident Athens. Simply, what they needed, was 
free youth which would allow thinkers to abandon themselves 
to thought. But how could it remain carefree at a time when 
the last king of Macedon, his head bowed, walked through the 
streets of Rome, chained to the victor's chariot? A corrosive 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 199 

poison had already been consuming Hellas. There was no 
faith either in science or in the state or in the people, let alone 
in Olympus: it was spared out of a kind of courtesy, and to 
frighten the mob. It was those days, and not the days of the 
Sophists, that witnessed, indeed, the ugly spectacle of the rhet- 
oricians-dialectics who spoke and preached without any con- 
victions. It was a species of cold quibbling in science, hypo- 
critical and perfidious, fleeting and hollow; on rare occasions 
sparks were struck, reminiscent of the Athenian mind, biting 
and poetical, facile and profound. This phenomenon belonged 
to social life rather than to science. It reflected the civil 
decomposition in the sphere of thought. But this same sphere 
witnessed the rise of the most vigorous reaction against -social 
immorality, Stoicism. 

The doctrine of the Stoics was pre-eminently moral. It came 
to grips with vital problems. It sought to give counsel, to 
fortify the heart against the blows of fate, to arouse the proud 
consciousness of duty and to make the individual sacrifice 
everything for its sake. What else could thinkers preach, who 
were witnesses of the last act of a tragedy in which the world 
was collapsing and when its visible ruins made it hard to 
discern the future which was quietly and imperceptibly settling 
amid that scene of agony full of impotent, senile lust and 
exhaustion, disgusting in its cynical servility. Nothing was left 
to the philosopher but to fold his arms and take a 
courageous stand against them, to brand society by his 
aloofness and cry aloud its shame, and % when all hope for its 
salvation was lost, to do his utmost to save at least a few 
persons, wrest them from the contaminated environment and 
awaken moral sentiments in their breast. The Stoics con- 
secrated themselves to this task. Yet their doctrine was sad, 
austere and "yielded nothing to the graces." It taught how to 
die, to vindicate the truth at the cost of one's life, to be firm 
and unswerving in adversity, to surmount sufferings and dis- 
dain pleasures; all of these are virtues but the virtues of a man 
plunged in misery. All that was too gloomy to be normal. The 
Stoic's hand, ever ready to sever the thread of his own life, 
was unflinching towards others. It handled everything with 
rude fingers and the delicate, scarcely perceptible aroma that 



200 A. HER ZEN 

enveloped all things Athenian like an aura, either vanished at 
their touch or else did not exist for them at all. That was the 
time when the Roman spirit, practical and precise, sharp and 
cold, began to be all-pervading, became the universal, pre- 
dominant influence. On Roman soil the Stoics attained their 
complete development. In Greece they had been theoretical 
rather than otherwise while here they opened their veins and 
made fires in their own gardens. It is precisely the Roman ele- 
ment that was dominant in them. Theirs were dry, vigorous 
but embittered minds, and their hearts were hard, though lacer- 
ated. They were practical but extremely one-sided and formal. 
Their rules were simple and pure. But in their abstract purity 
they, like oxygen, provided no healthy medium for breathing 
precisely because they contained no admixture which would 
mitigate their extreme purity. The moral precepts of the Stoics 
aimed at producing wise men. They believed that only the 
individual could possess virtues. They aimed to cultivate 
morality in the wise man alone and not in the republic, as did 
Plato. They were the first to give voice to the great thought 
that the wise man is not tied down by any external law for he 
bore the living source of law within him, and was under no 
compulsion to account to anybody but his own conscience. This 
was a profound idea, pregnant with meaning but such as was 
uttered only in those times when thinking people perceived 
the incompatability between the existing order and conscious- 
ness revealed in all the ugliness of its falsehood. This idea was 
the complete negation of positive law and yet the Stoics, in 
emancipating the wise men, expounded their morality in 
maxims, that as, in ready-made articles of their code. Maxims 
in the philosophy of morality are detestable. They humiliate 
man, expressing supreme distrust for him and regarding him 
as immature or stupid. Besides, they are useless because they 
are always too general. They can never cover all circumstances 
which vary in every particular case, and moreover they are 
unnecessary. Finally, a maxim is a dead letter. It offers no 
escape when contingencies arise, and when they do, the force 
of things rejects the abstract rule, bursts it as it would a frame 
unable to retain its contents. A moral man should always 
know unhesitatingly how to conduct himself in every partic- 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 201 

ular case, and not because he follows a set of maxims but 
because he has a general, idea from which the case in point 
may readily be deduced. He improvises his conduct. Now, the 
Stoics, formalistic and distrustful, regarded morality from a 
juridical point of view and made up their moral maxims. Their 
doctrine definitely showed a tendency to establish itself and 
congeal as a fixed dogmatism. 

And as the austere, ascetic Stoicism, with its suicides and 
rigorous rules, took possession of minds, another doctrine, 
completely opposite to Stoicism (in its expression), spread as 
rapidly. It was Epicureanism, the last, purely Greek attempt 
to reconcile thought with life and the individual with his 
environment in a bright and somewhat cheap way. "We declare 
pleasure to be the beginning and end of the blessed life; for 

we recognize this to be our first and natural good " To 

this conscious pleasure we should strive, eliminating all that 
is in the way as evil. So blessedness is the criterion oLEpi- 
curus. Nothing is more absurd than the endless stories told by 
worthy people that Epicurus preached that the goal of life was 
the gross and bestial satisfaction of passions. This idea is as 
narrow-minded and shallow as that presenting Heraclitus as 
always weeping and Democritus as always laughing and that 
the Sophists were charlatans and swindlers. All that belongs 
to a special view of philosophy which is as true as the idea 
formed about a ball by those who are watching it from the 
ante-room. Blessedness is undoubtedly the goal of life. All 
things living and endowed with consciousness have an in- 
alienable right to enjoy life. But the question is what con- 
stitutes the blessedness of man. For an animal it lies in the 
appeasement of hunger and the satisfaction of its natural 
instincts, and the same holds good for the man-animal. But 
one should not forget that man is not in his normal state an 
animal. Equally abnormal is the man who would denounce his 
physical nature as unworthy of himself. There is no blessed- 
ness for man in immorality. It is precisely in morality and 
virtue that he attains his supreme happiness. For that reason 
it is quite natural for man to love virtue and morality. 
Moralists are determined to force man to do good, to act 
morally, just as physicians make him take bitter and un- 



202 A. HE II ZEN 

pleasant pills. For them the very fact that man performs his 
duties unwillingly is what makes it meritorious. It does not 
occur to them that if these duties were true and moral, it would 
be a strange kind of man who would find their performance 
repulsive. It does not occur to them to demand the reconcilia- 
tion of heart and mind in such ia fashion as to enable man to 
consider the fulfilment of a genuine duty not as a heavy 
burden but as a pleasure, since it is a line of conduct most 
natural to him and acknowledged by his mind. If virtue is only 
a compulsory duty, an external dictum, it cannot be loved 
one can make sacrifices for its sake or submit to it, but that is 
all. One can, finally, be virtuous for selfish reasons: in expec- 
tation of a reward. Here the aim is also blessedness but on a 
lower, more ulterior level. Retribution lies in virtue itself; a 
moral deed is a ready compensation, is bliss in itself. Other- 
wise we lapse into doubt, so well expressed by Schiller: 

GEWISSENSSKRUPEL 

Gerne dien' ich den Freunden, dock tu' ich es leider 

mit Neigung. 
Und so wurmt es mich oft, dass ich nicht tugendhaft bin. 

ENTSCHEIDUNC 

Da ist kein anderer Rat, du musst suchen, sie zu ver- 

achten, 
Und mit Abscheu alsdann tun, wie die Pflicht dir 

gebeut* 



Doubt 

* ,1 serve my friends willingly but, unfortunately, it gives me pleasure: 
my conscience often reproaches me with being immoral because of that. 

Decision 

There is nothing to be done but try and hate them and do with 
abhorrence what is dictated by duty. A//. 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 203 

He who finds bliss in virtue can say, like Epicurus: 
""sensible adversity must be preferred to insane happiness," 
which is self-evident, for insane happiness is an absurdity lor 
man. To enjoy it he has to renounce his supreme essence- 
reason. Every immoral act, committed consciously, denies and 
insults reason; pricks of conscience remind the man that he 
has acted like a slave, like an animal, and this reproachful 
voice destroys his happiness. Stoicism is opposite 1o 
Epicureanism in form rather than in reality; did not the former 
want to be self-sacrificing because in self-sacrifice it saw more 
human satisfaction than in cowardly indulgence and licentious- 
ness? Stoicism only -expressed its outlook- differently, interpreted 
it from a different angle. Called into existence as a reaction, 
a protest, it undertook, in an abrupt and ascetic way, to 
reform morals. It was like the severe and austere Catholicism 
which came into existence after Luther. Now, Epicureanism, 
quite the contrary, true to Greek genius, understood the prob- 
lem raised by Stoicism in a marvellous and humanly simple 
way, and did not divide the human soul into two terrible 
opposites of duty and desire, setting them against each other, 
but strove rather to reconcile them in that beatitude which 
would satisfy both duty and passions. The fulfilment of duty 
was, according to it, inseparable from enjoyment, that is, it 
was natural and reasonable. The state of moral dualism con- 
tradicts the very meaning of the self-conscious being; it is also 
an absurdity like that wherein an animal, to appease its 
hunger, claws its own breast. Simple organic harmony protests 
strongly against Stoic melancholy and their teeth-gnashing; 
such ascetism and persecution of everything natural led 
straight to Origen's corrections of physical nature. It will be 
noted that the purity of the morals of Epicurus's disciples has 
become proverbial, and that is only natural. A person who 
recognizes his right to enjoyment easily understands the rights 
which enjoyment has over himself. Passions do not frighten 
him; not as enemies or thieves in the night do they creep into 
his heart. He is familiar with them and knows their place. He 
who aims only to master his passions thereby imparts to them 
a vigour and intensity they do not possess. He makes them 
rivals to reason. Passions grow in vigour and intensity pre- 



204 A. HERZEN 

cisely because an enormous importance is attached to them. 
Lucretius says that sometimes we should yield to the need tor 
pleasure lest it become an obsession with us. Epicurus who 
is quite the opposite of the Stoics joined with them in the final 
words of his doctrine. "Freedom from fear and desire," he 
says, "is the highest bliss/' Note, too, that both schools at- 
tached to the personality of man an importance infinitely 
greater than had any of the philosophic doctrines which 
preceded them. That was the sign heralding the recognition of 
the infinity of the human spirit which was bound to develop in 
the new world. You may raise the objection that Epicureanism, 
however, contributed to the spread of sensuality and material- 
ism in Rome. Yes, but in what epoch? When Rome was cor- 
rupted to the point of idolizing Claudius, Caligula, etc., and 
people sought to forget, to escape from the civic world, from 
forebodings and reminiscences, and they interpreted Epicure- 
anism according to their own lights. 

Epicureanism had a great influence on natural science. 
Epicurus was almost as much of an atomist and empiricist, 
as the natural scientists of the last century, and in part, of the 
present. Despite his great boldness, he did not pursue his con- 
ception to its logical end any more than did the Greeks, or even 
the Stoics themselves who, while opposing the beliefs of the 
pagan world, yet yielded to a kind of fatalism and to mystical 
influences. Epicurus accepted the absurdity of the accidental 
association of atoms as a cause of the origin of all things 
existing and spoke admirably of the supreme being "who 
lacks nothing and is indestructible, immutable and must be 
venerated not for some external reasons but because it is 
worthy of such by its very essence." This testifies only that he 
felt the limits of his conception and foresaw the supreme 
principle reigning over the diversity of the physical world. 
But, in addition, he spoke of certain subjugated gods types 
that serve as eternal ideals for people. 29 How he reconciled 
this host of gods with the accident of origin is not clear, and 
probably, was not clear to him either. The deistic philosophers 
of the eighteenth century, and naturalists in general, furnish 
numerous examples of the most complete contradiction 
between their physical theories and some attempts or other at 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 205 

une religion raisonnee, naturelle, philosophique. Despite 
this inconsistency, the influence of . Epicureanism was con- 
siderable. The Epicureans accepted facts and experience nol 
only as their point of departure but as an irrefutable criterion 
Usually, thinkers just rested one foot on facts and then im- 
mediately passed over to the abstract and the universal, reduc- 
ing them afterwards to logical multiplicity; the Epicureans 
took a different path to truth: they clung to the empirical. Thai 
path made it impossible, because of its one-sidedness, for the 
Epicureans to disentangle themselves from empiricism and 
attain all-embracing synthetic thoughts, but it contained some- 
thing so irresistible, so manifestly irrefutable and tangible that 
it at once became accessible, popular and practical. For all its 
types and ideals, Epicureanism dealt the death-blow to 
paganism. Stoicism risked changing into mysticism and indeed 
Platonism did change into it. Aristotle might have been in- 
terpreted in many ways, but that was impossible in so far as 
Epicureanism was concerned; it was simple and positive. 
That is exactly why it was reviled so maliciously. It was no 
more licentious or atheistic than other philosophic doctrines 
in Greece but, after all, why should we take up the cudgels on 
behalf of pagan orthodoxy? All ancient philosophers are open 
to suspicion of being polytheistic and all of them, Epicurus in- 
cluded, have retained traces of it. It was its accursed positive- 
ness and experimental method that so exasperated people like 
Cicero. 

Soon the biting wind of scepticism attacked the dogmatism 
of both the Epicureans and the Stoics, and the last ideas of the 
ancient philosophy which were growing senile and stubborn 
in their dogmatism, crumbled away before its powerful gusts 
and were dissipated in the twilight mists that descended on 
the Greek-Roman world. Scepticism was the natural sequence 
of dogmatism. Dogmatism had called it forth against itself. 
Scepticism came as a reaction. Philosophical dogmatism, as 
everything inert, rigid, settled in self-complacency, is re- 
pugnant to the ever active, ever-striving nature of man. 
Dogmatism in science is not progressive on the contrary, it 
makes a live thought settle in a stone crust around its own 
principles. It is like a solid body thrown into a solution in order 



206 A. HER ZEN 

to precipitate crystallization. However, human thought has not 
the least desire to crystallize. It flees stagnation and inert- 
ness, it sees in dogmatism ia quiescent repose, lassitude and, 
finally, something limited. Dogmatism, indeed, must of neces- 
sity have the ready absolute, something pre-existent and kept 
in the one-sidedness of a logical definition. It is satisfied with 
what it has; it does not involve its first principles into move- 
menton the contrary, they are the immobile pivot around 
which it revolves, in chains. As soon as thought begins to 
discern this granite-like immobility, the human spirit, this 
actus purus, this motion par excellence, rebels and bends all 
its efforts to sweep away and -destroy this reef which it finds 
so galling, and there has never yet been a case of dogmatism, 
firmly established in science, being able to stand up against 
such pressure. Scepticism, as we have said, was a reaction 
called forth by that semi-legal dogmatism in philosophy. It 
cannot exist as such where rigid conceptions are impossible, 
where nothing is accepted on the strength of authority, and 
there is no tendency to make science a set of cut-and-dried 
standards like the Twelve Tables instead of the live, flowing 
thought it should be. However, until science conceives itself 
precisely as the live, flowing thought and consciousness of 
mankind which, like Proteus, assumes all shapes without 
retaining any one of them, so long as ready-made truths aie 
accepted without any justification, and are taken from the 
street, rather than from the mind, and, indeed, even find a 
place and right of residence in it so long will bitter and 
cutting scepticism raise, .from time to time, its head of Sextus 
Empiricus or Hume and kill, by its irony and negation, all 
science because it is not all science. Doubt is a permanent 
element in all the stages of developing scientific thought. We 
find it in science in Greece and later on will invariably find it 
in every attempt made by philosophic dogmatism; it accom- 
panies science throughout the ages. 

The nature of that scepticism which the thought of the 
ancient world assumed at its close was very noteworthy. 
Directed against the two forms of dogmatism, it achieved 
de facto what dogmatism strove for; it divorced the personality 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 207 

from everything concrete, emancipating it from everything 
positive, and thereby acknowledged negatively its infinite 
worth. Scepticism liberated the mind from the ancient science 
on which it had been educated. That liberation, however, was 
not a conscious, harmonious proclamation of its rights and its 
autonomy, that was a reactionary liberation, like that of '93, 
when thought liberated itself from the ancient world and 
cleared the ground for the world to come. Scepticism was a 
result of the most terrible sensations that could visit the human 
mind. Not only did it doubt the possibility of knowing the truth, 
nay, it even did not doubt the impossibility of knowing it. It 
was convinced that being and thought were equally impossible 
of control, that they were incommensurable values, and prob- 
ably even imaginary ones. It posited probability instead of 
the criterion, and, with a bitter smile, let things rest there. 
Once convinced of the inability of the mind to rise to the truth, 
the sceptics abandoned all attempts to do so and merely argued 
that the attempts of others were absurd. Do not, however, be 
deceived by this indifference: that is that desperate indifference 
born of the helplessness with which you gaze at the body of 
your deceased friend. You have to resign yourself to his loss; 
there is nothing you can do about it. So, broken-hearted, you 
go about your own affairs. However bold a front Sextus 
Empiricus* tried to assume, man is not so easily reconciled to 
mistrust of himself, to the certainty that his mind is not 
absolute. The very laughter of the sceptics, their very irony, 
prove that their hearts were not at all at peace with the world. 
Laughter is not always an expression of gaiety. 



* Sextus Empiricus lived in the second century, A.D. A man of 
extraordinary but purely negative intelligence, he riot only denied every- 
thing but, what is still worse, accepted everything. In his dialectics there 
is a kind of irony that is enough to drive one mad. He rejects causality, 
for example, but later he says: so there is a sufficient reason to reject 
the cause as a cause, and if so the cause for rejecting causality is also 
invalid. Like Kant, he enumerated the series of antinomies, and left them 
all as antinomies. His last word was: "Only when he who flees the evil 
or he who strives for the good is told that there is neither the one nor 
the other, will the agonies of the spirit end, and life will become happy/' 
The world which had brought forth these words was bound to be 
recreated. A. H. 



208 A. HER ZEN 

The ancient world had no weapon whatever against scep- 
ticism because the latter was more consistent than any phil- 
osophical system of the ancient world. Scepticism alone in the 
antique world was not tainted by a spineless and frivolous 
complacency towards paganism; it did not so readily open its 
doors to all kinds of conceptions which facilitated, for a while, 
insoluble problems and which contaminated the whole organism. 
A real science could have cancelled scepticism repudiated 
negation itself; for it, scepticism was only a stage. But ancient 
science did not possess that power. It was conscious of its 
sins and did not dare to come out openly against scepticism 
which had declared it insolvent. Scepticism liberated the mind 
from it and cast it in a void that had no contents at all: the 
yawning depths of negative thought swallowed up everything. 
Scepticism brought to light an infinite subjectivity, devoid of 
all objectivity. True to itself it did not attempt to say the last 
word, and that was a good thing too: it would not have been 
understood anyway. The sceptics sought repose in their own 
personalities. Mistrustful of the universe, the mind, the truth, 
they suggested that everybody look within himself to find his 
last refuge, his last resort. But did not that lead straight to 
positing self-cognition as the essence? Is that not proof that 
at the close of the ancient world the human spirit, which had 
no more trust in the world, law, polytheism, or science, foresaw 
that self-concentration alone offered compensation for all the 
losses sustained? This prophetic fore-knowledge of the infinite 
dignity of man, scarcely visible in the scepticism which had 
come to destroy the plastic, artistic learning of Greece, far 
overstepped the bounds of the contemporary state of thought. 
It took man two millenniums to rise to the consciousness of his 
grandeur and his Dignity. 

After the insane and feverish times of the first Caesars, more 
tranquil days came to Rome. The old man who had risen from 
his deathbed felt that, far from losing all of his strength 
during his illness, he had even acquired new vigour. He did 
not realize that that was the last show of resistance put up by 
life, the last effort after which death was certain to come. 
Order was restored and the life of the empire flourished 
in all its splendour and power. Paving her stone highways 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 209 

and erecting her palaces for eternity, she could still 
captivate Gibbon by her artificial beauty. True, there was an 
obscure presentiment in the air, some feverish shudder con- 
vulsed the limbs of the empire. Strange crowds of savages, 
fair and long-haired, gathered on her frontiers. These bar- 
barians were regarded by the slaves with less hatred than were 
their masters. Far-sighted people realized that a tempest was 
inevitable, but as usual they were few. Officially, Rome stood 
four-square as ever and dominated the ancient world. Official- 
ly, Rome was still the Eternal City. Blind trust in the stability 
of the existing order held possession of most minds. The whole 
ancient world gathered in Rome as in one node, in one ruling 
organ. That is exactly why Rome lost its own character and 
represented not itself but the. whole universe. All the vital 
juices of the subjugated nations flowed into it. It seemed to 
draw them in so that, to use the well-known poetic expression 
of Caligula, they could behead the ancient world with a single 
blow. Austere Rome could conquer the world and adapt its 
mind to the thoughts of others and its heart to an alien art, 
but it could not continue Greek life. Its soul was a melancholy 
combination of abstractions and practical sense, infinite power 
and a void not to be filled by anything, neither by victories, 
nor by forensic casuistry, nor by voluptuous pleasures, nor by 
the debauchery of tyranny, nor by sanguinary spectacles. The 
life of Greece did not pass on to Italy. Des Lebens Mai bliiht 
einmal and nicht wieder. 

As opposed to the civic and political centre that Rome was, 
Alexandria attracted the last and most complete representa- 
tion of ancient thought. Cohorts of the ancient world, physical 
in Rome and spiritual in Alexandria, rallied around their age- 
worn banners not in order to win but to dip them at last before 
a new banner. The problem which absorbed all the problems 
in Neoplatonism consisted in defining the relation of the par- 
ticular to the universal, of the world of phenomena to the 
noumenon, of man to God. 

The last letter told you that whenever Greek thought found 
itself face to face with this problem, it proved incompetent. 
Whenever it rose to this height it grew dizzy, delirious and 
succumbed to pagan conceptions. Neoplatonism approached 

141157 



210 A. HER ZEN 

these problems more comprehensively and more seriously. It 
had absorbed many Judaic traits, as well as Eastern ones in 
general, and combined all these elements unknown to Greek 
science with a deep study of Pythagoras, Plato and Aristotle. 
Almost from the outset, it stood just outside the domain of 
paganism though its greatest representative, Proclus, clung 
stubbornly to Greek polytheism. Polytheism idolized, person- 
ified various forces of nature, gave them a human form cor- 
responding to the nature of the natural elements thus repre- 
sented by these living images. The Neoplatonics conceived the 
abstract moments of a logical process, the moments of world 
development as phases of the absolute spirit, immaterial and 
immanent to the world and self-contained. They conceived it 
as "alive within the motion of substance," as Derzhavin so 
admirably expressed it. In rough outlines, Neoplatonism is a 
kind of paganism rather mystical than artistic. The 
Neoplatonics, indeed, wanted no idols but by adopting their 
hieroglyphic language they so obscured the meaning of their 
words that it is hard to guess what is the symbol and what it 
represents, all the more so since they did their utmost to prove 
their devotion to paganism, and confuse things by symbolizing 
abstract truths under the names of various gods and 
goddesses.* The Neoplatonics tried to justify paganism ration- 
ally, to demonstrate scientifically its absolute character and, 
naturally, succeeded only in delivering a new blow to ancient 
religion. Once reason and science intervened in the domain 
of the fantastic conceptions it was only to be expected that 
they would bring to light the invalidity of the latter. No matter 
what philosophy tries to justify, it justifies only reason, that is, 
itself, Proclus's point of departure was exalted meditation. By 
his life, by his spirit, must man prepare himself for an exalted 
state lifting him to the heights of contemplation which alone 
allows man to acquire a knowledge of the absolute. The 
absolute as it is in itself, abstracted from the conditional, 
cannot be known. It is an abstract remaining-in-itself unity 
which becomes intelligible by revealing, happening, develop- 



* Proclus expresses this most clearly; he was initiated into all the 
mysteries, and astonished the priests by his theological subtleties. A.H. 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 211 

ing. But the development of this unity, however, is not an 
unrestricted self-expenditure lost in arithmetic infinity; indeed 
not, while developing, it retains its identity. The interaction of 
this polarity, limit, measure, mark a transition to concentra- 
tion. Hence, Proclus deduced his three elements: Unity, In- 
finity, Measure. It should be remarked, however, that despite 
the power and heights attained by this conception, it proceeded 
not from what was logically antecedent but from immediate 
knowledge resulting from exaltation; its idea was correct but 
its method was neither scientific nor justified. Religion 
proceeds from absolute truth; it needs no such justification. 
But the Neoplatonics wanted science, and as a science 
their outlook, in spite of the heights it had attained, was 
unsound. 

Every fibre of its soul, all its sympathies -and the .'attitude of 
thought to the transient, drew Neoplatonism out of the domain 
of ancient thought and into the world of Christianity. And yet 
the Neoplatonics did not want to embrace Christianity; they 
dreamed about pouring new wine into the old bottles. Neopl-a- 
tonism was a 1 desperate attempt, majestic but unsuccessful, of 
the ancient mind to save itself by its own means. But how 
could Neoplatonics, with their abstract, difficult and occult 
language, their philosophic eclecticism, their theurgic gnosti- 
cism and love for the supernatural, stop the fall of Rome, bar 
Epicureanism -and scepticism? And, finally, how could they 
possibly communicate with the people at large in this lan- 
guage? Neoplatonism was thrown into the shade by Christia- 
nity -as everything abstract is by what is full of life. All their 
doctrines breathed the spirit of the future, but all of them lacked 
something, that imperative invocation, that lightning which 
would fuse the fragmentary and half-formulated ideas into a 
homogeneous whole. The magnificent words: reconciliation, 
renewaLr TtaXfyfsvsoK: arcoxaicbTaaic Tcavtaiv * groped for life 
among the Neoplalonics -and the Socialist-visionaries of our 
days. But they remained -abstract, difficult to understand like 
their theodicy. Neoplatonism was for scholars, for the elect 
Among us (that is, among the Christians), Tertullian says, 



* Rebirth and return of everything to its original state. Ed. 
14* 



2t2 A. a R it ZEN 

"the children have more knowledge of God than your wise 
men." It was insane to struggle with Christianity but the proud 
philosophy, exactly like proud Rome, did not realize it at first. 
Strangely enough, Rome seemed in the odious age of the dash- 
ing Gaesars to lose its reason -and lapsed into the miserable 
dotage of one who grows vain and petty on the brink of his 
grave. The Gospel was -already preached in its squares but the 
Roman aristocracy -and the wiseacres looked smilingly down 
upon the poor Nazarene heresy and wrote despicable pane- 
gyrics and vulgar madrigals, without perceiving that the slaves 
and the poor, all toilers and sufferers, were listening to the 
new message of redemption. Tacitus did not understand at first, 
nor did Pliny subsequently, what was going on under their 
very eyes. The Neoplatonics, no less than the Stoics and the 
sceptics, saw what a strange state the civic order and morals 
were in, but 'absorbed in their meditation, they could not even 
plunge headlong into atheism and sensuality out of sheer de- 
spair. The insolvency of the positive world led them to scorn 
everything temporal, natural, and to seek another world within 
themselves, a world independent and absolute. A deep and 
eager enquiry into the external world caused them to recognize 
the abstract and spiritual alone as truth.* However, this spirit- 
ual world was conceived by them on a higher and a more com- 
prehensive plane thai: by all the preceding schools. It a'lone 
answered their aspirations. Christianity, indeed, alone corres- 
ponded to Neoplatonism, and yet the Neoplatonics were pagans 
not out of habit or because, born pagans, a false pride kept 
them such. No, they really imagined that pagan myths were the 
best incarnation of the truth. Inclined to regard everything 
material as a mere illusion, these people perpetrated at the 
very outset so gross -an error that it was easy for them after - 

* Here is what Porphyry says about his teacher: 

"Plotinus seemed to us a superhuman being; he was ashamed to have, 
a body, and considered his parentage and birthplace of so little 
importance that he never spoke of them. He never allowed his body to be 
reproduced by an artist. When Aurelius asked his permission to draw his 
portrait he replied: 'Is it not enough that we are obliged to carry our body 
within which we are confined by nature? Should we also leave behind 
us the image of this prison as though it had something majestic in its 
asoect?'" It is a nurelv romantic trend. A H. 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 213 

wards to accept consequences which did not issue out of their 
principles, iand reconcile themselves to what they did not even 
want to be reconciled with. But what, then, prevented them 
from renouncing an obsolete, dead conception? Simply that 
it was not as easy to do so -as it seems. 

The old and the vanquished does not immediately descend 
into the grave. The resistance land longevity of that which is at 
the point of vanishing are based on the instinct of self-preser- 
vation inherent to all that exists. This is the instinct that de- 
fends to the utmost everything once endowed with life. Univer- 
sal economy does not 'allow the existing things to descend intc 
the grave before they have exhausted all their strength. Con 
servatism in the historical world is -as true ian element of lift 
as is perpetual motion iand renewal; it expresses a most empha- 
tic approval of the existing, a recognition of its right. The 
urge forward, on the contrary, expresses dissatisfaction with 
the existing, and seeks for a form better iadapted to the new 
stage of the development of reason. Content with nothing, it is 
indignant, it feels cramped under the existing scheme of things. 
Historic^ development moves in obedience to both forces, 
balancing them against each other and thereby saving itself 
from one-sidedness. Memory and hope, status quo iand progress 
are the -antinomy of history, its two banks. Status quo is based 
on the factual admission that every form realized is a genuine 
chalice of life, a victory achieved, the truth irrefutably proved 
by being. It is based on the correct idea that at every historical 
moment mankind is master of iall life has to offer 'arid has no 
need to wait for the future in order to enjoy its existing rights. 
The conservative tendency awakens hallowed memories dear to 
people's hearts and enjoins them to return to the parental house 
where life was so young and carefree, forgetful that this house 
had, in the meantime, become cramped ;and dilapidated; this 
view proceeds from the golden age. Now, perfection strives for 
the golden age, protesting against the recognition of the def- 
inite as the absolute; it regards the truth of the past and pres- 
ent as a relative truth which has no right to eternal existence 
and which testifies to its own limited character precisely be- 
cause it is transient. It also treasures the memory of the days 
of old but it has no desire to make it the goal of its visions of 



214 A. HER ZEN 

the future, of its sacred aspirations. The pagan world, exclu- 
sively national and spontaneous, always lived under the se- 
ductive spell of memories. Christianity, however, made hope 
one of its fundamental virtues. Though hope invariably 
triumphs over memory, the struggle between them is, never- 
theless, often bitter and prolonged. The old world puts up a 
formidable resistance: which is but natural: is it possible for 
life not to cling tenaciously to the forms it has achieved? It 
does not know yet new forms those forms are itself. But 
for someone to realize that he has outlived his day is a self- 
denial well-nigh impossible. It is Caton's suicide. The declin- 
ing order of things has -attained its full development, has been 
universally applied and has struck deep roots in the human 
heart. The new order, on the contrary, is only -arising; at first 
it is universal and abstract; it is poor and naked while the 
old is rich and strong. The new has yet to be created in the 
sweat of one's brow, whereas the old persists, and stands firmly, 
resting on the crutches of habit. The new has to be investigat- 
ed, it demands self-development and sacrifice; the old can be 
accepted without analysis because it is there, a fact which con- 
stitutes -a major right in people's eyes. The new is regarded 
with distrust because its features are so youthful while the 
decrepit features of the old w have become so familiar that they 
seem eternal. The force and'charm of memories may sometimes 
overcome the temptation of hope: people may long for the 
p i ast whatever the cost for they see the future in it. 

Such was Julian the Apostate. In his day the question of 
life or death of the ancient world rose in all its dreadful acute- 
ness: it was impossible to ignore it. Three possible solutions 
offered themselves: paganism, that is, the days of old; memo- 
ries and despair, that is, scepticism neither the past nor the 
future; -and, finally, the 'acceptance of Christianity and along 
with it, the entry into the new world to come, with the dead 
left behind to bury their dead. Julian was an ardent visionary, 
a man of spirit and energy. Having nothing practical to do at 
first, he became wholly absorbed in Greek learning; then he 
retired to distant Lutetia where he took up the crucial question 
of the contemporary age and decided it in favour of the past 
It will be noted in passing that Bysantium was not the priri- 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 215 

cipial seat of Neoplatonism; nor wa's the life of Julian passed 
in it. They could dream of the good old ways and the re-es- 
tablishment of the ancient order of things only outside the 
new capital, outside the city by which Constantine renounced 
paganism and the life of the ancient capital inseparable from 
this paganism. Theoretically not only did it seem possible to 
resurrect the past but also to enlighten it at the same time. 
Julian was a man of strict morals and lofty virtues. In him 
the ancient world seemed to purify itself, to grow radiant, as 
if consciously prepared for a noble and honest death. Julian's 
will was firm and fine; his intellect that of a genius but all 
to no purpose! To resurrect the past was simply impossible. 
There are few spectacles more grandiose and reassuring than 
that of the impotence of such giants like Julian when they have 
to battle against the tide of the times. By the power they pos- 
sessed and the effect it failed to produce, one may easily judge 
how futile were the attempts of the dead but not yet buried 
past when opposed to the nascent future. Of course, the mem- 
ories of Athens and Rome, mournful and reproachful, appeared 
on the empty walls and exercis-ed an irresistible -attraction. Of 
course, this magnificent world, sinking into its grave, was a 
deeply pathetic sight even we, aliens that we are, iare moved 
now to tears but what has been done cannot be undone. Its 
death was a tragic fact that could not but be accepted by those 
present at the funeral. There is no contesting the fact: a pe- 
culiar kind of gloomy poetry surrounds the people of the past. 
There is something pathetic in their funeral procession moving 
against time, in their ever unsuccessful attempts to resurrect 
the dead. Recollect the Jews who still expect in our day to re- 
establish the Kingdom of Israel and who are still struggling 
against Christianity. What can be more pathetic than the plight 
of the Jew in Europe, this man who abjures the broad stream 
of life around him in favour of static traditions. He cannot 
open his heart to anyone since everything that was near to 
his spirit perished ages before. With envy and hatred he regards 
everything European, -aware that he can 1-ay no legal claims 
to any of the fruits of this life and that yet he cannot dispense 
with European comfort. 



216 A. HER ZEN 

Every sudden change leaves behind representatives of the 
defeated side. You may find the Jewish immobility in Saint- 
Germain, or even in our old and new Old Faith Believers. 
The Neoplatonics were in the same position. As we have al- 
ready said, they were, by the very structure of their mind, by 
every word of their doctrine, outside the ancient world and 
claimed that close kinship with it which did not exist in their 
soul. By a species of nationalism they arrived at an 'allego- 
rical justification of paganism and imagined that they believed 
in it. They wanted to resurrect the past order of things in a 
certain philosophico-literary manner. They deceived themselves 
more than others. They saw in the past their future ideal 
but clad in the vestments of the past. If, at the time when 
Neoplatonism was in its prime, that life, long-interred, could 
in reality have arisen from the grave, even if only for a mo- 
ment, its worshippers would have been shocked by it not because 
it had been bad in its day but because its day had already 
passed. It represented an environment quite different from that 
which the contemporary man needed what could, indeed, Pro- 
clus sand Plotinus have done during the hard times of the Punic 
Wars? Nonetheless, people devoted to the past suffer profound- 
ly. They are as far removed from their environment as are 
those who live in the future alone. Such sufferings necessarily 
accompany every revolution. The period preceding a new phase 
of life is distressing and unsupportable to every thinking man. 
Every problem assumes ia tragic turn, people 'are ready to -ac- 
cept the most absurd solutions anything in order to calm 
themselves. Bigotry goes hand in hand with cold disbelief, the 
wildest hopes with despair; suspense is agonizing; one is im- 
patient for events while apparently nothing is happening.* 



* Look what terrible words escaped the lips of Pliny, Lucian, and Se- 
neca. You will find in them the eulogy to suicide, bitter reproaches of life, 
a longing for death, and what a death, too "the death with the hope of 
annihilation!'* "Death is the only reward for the misfortune of birth, and 
what is the good of it if it leads to immortality? Deprived as we are of the 
happiness not to be born, can we also be deprived of the happiness to be 
annihilated?" (Hist. Nat.) What an utter frustration, what a deep despair 
possessed those people lA.H. 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 217 

That was a time of secret underground straining to the light 
of day, ia time of travail, of distress and suffering. It is like a 
journey through the arid steppes; joyless and arduous, with 
no shade to take shelter in, no spring to refresh oneself at. 
The fruits taken a-long -are spoilt; those chanced upon on the 
way are sour. The unfortunate intermediary generations they 
usually perish midway, wasted with fever, those escheated gen- 
erations which belong neither to this world, nor to that! It is 
they who bear the brunt of the past evils and are deprived of 
the future joys. The new world will forget them -as the joyful 
traveller, in the bosom of his family, forgets the camels, which 
have borne all his effects and fallen on the way. Happy are 
those who closed their eyes after having seen, even though 
from afar, the trees of the Promised Land. Most of them die 
delirious, or staring at the merciless sky -as they lie on the 
hard and scorching sand. The ancient world drank this cup of 
gall to the dregs in the last centuries of its life. History knew 
no more brutal and violent changes. Christianity alone could 
have saved it but it opposed the pigan world so strongly, dis- 
carding all old beliefs and convictions, that it was difficult for 
people to make a complete break with the past. They had to be 
reborn, in the words of the Bible, 1o be *able to renounce the 
sum total of acquired truths and rules, >a thing extremely dif- 
ficult to do. Practical, everyday wisdom strikes far deeper 
roots than does the most positive legal code. The new world, 
however, could only start from this rupture with the past. The 
Neoplatonics were reformers, they wanted to repair and white- 
wash the old building. They wanted to make use of the new 
without sacrificing the old and they failed. "He that loveth 
father or mother more than me is not worthy of me." At first, 
ancient thought aristocratically ignored Christianity. When it 
understood it at last it entered, frightened, into combat 
with it. It exhausted all its resources in combat with it, to no 
avail. It was intelligent but impotent and outdated. It per- 
sisted for five centuries. At length, in 529, Justinian banished 
all pagan philosophers from the empire and closed the last 
Neoplatonic school; the last seven exponents of ancient learn- 
ing took refuge in Persia. The Persian Chosroes 30 obtained 
permission for them to return to their native land but they be- 



218 A. HER ZEN 

came wanderers lost in obscurity they did not find an laudi- 
ence.si i n ia few years a frightful epidemic broke out. The 
forces of nature, the very globe, seemed to take part in the final 
act of the tragedy. People died off by the hundred, cities were 
depopulated, the hearts of those who survived were wrung with 
grief in these convulsions the ancient world died. Emperor 
Leo the Isaurian -attempted to destroy its spiritual legacy: 
he burned down the great library in Byzantium sand forbade 
the teaching of anything but religion in the schools. 

The new world, whose encounter with old Rome was so 
solemnly and profoundly symbolized in the persons of Apostle 
Paul and Caesar Nero confronting each other, triumphed. 

You may reproach me thai after promising to write about 
studies of nature I have so far spoken least of all about the 
natural sciences. But such -a reproach would scarcely be jus- 
tified. The purpose of my letters is not -at fall to acquaint you 
with the factual side of the natural sciences it was solely 
to show, as far as possible, that the antagonism between phi- 
losophy and natural science becomes more absurd -and impos- 
sible with every passing day; that it rests on a mutual misun- 
derstanding, that empiricism is as true and real as idealism, 
and that speculation is that common ground on which they 
Join hands. To iachieve that contemplated aim, I thought it 
necessary* to reveal the origin of this antagonism between 
philosophy and natural science, which naturally led me up to 
a definition of science in general and a sketch of it historically. 
In logic, science comes out all complete as did the armed Mi- 
nerva from Jupiter's head, it has neither birth nor childhood. 
In history it grows out of a scarcely perceptible embryo. With- 
out knowledge of the embryology of science, of its destiny, 
it is difficult to understand its modern slate. Logical develop- 
ment does not demonstrate the fundamentals of science so 
plainly, so vividly, as does history. Logic regards everything 
from the point of view of eternity hence everything relative 
and historical is lost to it. Logic considers that it has cancelled 
some absurdity simply by exposing it; history knows how 
tenacious are the roots by which absurdities are bound to 



* See the beginning of Letter Two. -A.H. 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 219 

the earth, and it alone can disclose the state of the modern 
conflict. 

Nor would this reproach be justified in another sense; we 
have only spoken about the ancient world where all scientific 
development was concentrated in philosophy. The -ancient 
world had no science in the strict sense of the word. It was 
stimulated by the noble impulse lo know, to explain phenome- 
na, and understand its environment. Pliny said that ignorance 
of nature was proof of black ingratitude; yet ancient scientists 
more often than not confined themselves to this noble impulse 
and superficial theories. The -ancient world did not know how 
to observe, to investigate phenomena-, or cross-examine them. 
That is why natural science consisted of general views, remark- 
ably correct, and of isolated facts, for the most part, desulto- 
ry and ill-digested.* Science was dilettantism, an aesthetic 
need -and not a burning thirst for the truth. That is why both 
Pliny and Lucretius contented themselves with ia sympathetic 
understanding of nature and its poetic contemplation. Historia 
Naturalis by Pliny offers examples of this on every page: when 
he describes the heaven he stops, with Italian partiality for 
the sun, to describe it as a divinity all-seeing and all-hearing, 
an 'all-animating divinity, ia divinity, dissipating sad thoughts. 
Then he turns to the -earth and again it is all inspiration (with 
some rhetoric, though). He calls it a mother, gentle and gra- 
cicus, who nourishes, shelters -and sustains us, and after our 
death conceals our earthly remains in her bosom. "The air 
ro-ars and is condensed into thunderclouds, water rains down, 
stiffens into hail, rushes in streams, while the earth at haec 
benigna, mitis, indulgens usuique mortalium semper ancilla, 
quae coacta general. She has her answer for our every need. 
She has even produced poisonous plants so that one who is 
tired of life could easily put an end to it without throwing 
himself down from the rocks." (Histor. Natur., Lib. II, LXIII). 

What the ancients sought for was the gratification which 
a poetic understanding of nature and not a study of it might 



* One branch of natural science, closely connected with mathematics 
and demanding observation astronomy developed in its most scientific 
form in the days of Hipparchus and the Ptolemys. That is why the "Almag- 
est" was able to maintain itself up to the days of Copernicus. A.M. 



220 A. HER ZEN 

gnant them; yet looking back, we find a great exception in 
the person of Aristotle, that giant 'among men, who was also, 
in -all things, an eminent representative of the ancient world. 
His general views on nature -are already known to us but he 
was also great as an observer who left behind excellent mono- 
graphs. As is known, Alexander the Great did not forget, 
during his campaigns, to detail whole detachments of sol- 
diers to capture -animals which he then sent to Aristotle. So 
the latter was the first to engage in -a study of comparative 
anatomy. He had already arrived at a conception of the har- 
monious evolution of the lanimal kingdom; his classification, 
as we have already had occasion to observe, is still in use. 
Aristotle's views on natural science was, as in everything else, 
speculative and extremely realistic. Accepting nature as a 
process, -as activity that realizes the possibility inherent in it, 
Aristotle was equally removed from the idealism of Plato and 
from the materialism of Epicurus, though both of the 
two elements were to be found in him. Materialism 
noticeably gained preponderance in those of his followers 
who were specially concerned with natural science. Strato, 
for example, sought to explain all that exists exclusively 
by physical means. He rejected every metaphysical cause 
that lay outside the domain of nature. The purposeful- 
ness of the cosmos seemed to him nonsense or, at best, a mere 
supposition that had no proofs to rest on. All phenomena 
and their nexus he assumed to be the effect of 'an accidental 
interaction of the principal properties of nature contained in 
eternal matter. The world of sensations is, according to him, 
also a manifestation of a natural force, conditioned in a spe- 
cial way in the organism, whose material elements combined 
originally without 'any purpose and subsequently profited 
by the opportune conditions to develop to the utmost. These 
limits, once attained, the organism ceases to develop and 
merely reproduces itself to preserve the species.* Lucretius and 
Pliny the Younger may be called the most thorough represen- 
tatives 6f this conception which finally became the general 



* Buhle, Geschichte der Phil, seit der Wiederherstellung der Wissen- 
schaften, 1800, Teil 1. A.H. 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 221 

view held by the ancient naturalists. Transplanted to Roman 
soil, Greek thought, in some spheres, became clearer and 
more general. At the beginning of his famous poem De rerum 
natura Lucretius refers to the obscurity of Greek philosophers 
with the same kind of irony the French now use in referring 
to German science. Lucretius is indeed lucid and absorbing. 
The Epicurean views, warmed by the poet's fiery blood, bloomed 
luxuriantly. At first glance, the combination of poetry with 
Epicurian materialism seems strange, but consider that this 
man with his ardent heart and earthly passions had to choose 
between declining paganism, the obscure asceticism of the 
N-eoplatonics, -and the free views of the ma-teri-alism of his 
days. The fairy-tales of mythology are charming and grace- 
fulespecially to us who know them to be merely fairy-tales; 
in Lucretius's days they were growing to be repulsive. Oppo- 
sition to paganism was all the fashion, was ( a matter of good 
tone. It is in vain that Cicero tried, with his eloquence, to pass, 
Talleyrand-like, between philosophy and paganism, to recon- 
cile them formally and to force them into impossible wedlock. 
Julius Caesar openly said at 'a meeting of the senate that he 
did not believe in the immortality of the soul, and later 
Seneca repeated it from the stage. We know how strict the 
ancient Greco-Roman world was in relation to opinions, espe- 
cially in the times of Lucretius. Half a century later the Caesars 
realized that they had to use their power to bolster up pagan- 
ism. In that same senate Caligula recounted his mysterious 
visions, his ardent worship of idols, the rendez-vous given him 
by the moon, and so on. Heliogabalus went even further. 

Lucretius begins a la Hegel from being and non-being as 
active first principles which interacted -and coexisted. To ex- 
press these logical -abstractions he uses the language of the 
atomists; atoms and the void are the poles, the extremes striv- 
ing for equilibrium. Atoms race in the infinite void, meeting 
each other, flying on together, penetrating into each other, and 
combining to form other bodies while others iare lost in the 
immeasurable void.* Whole worlds arise where the conditions 



* In passing let us say that the ancients were very poor chemists (in 
a theoretical sense). The>, however, foresaw and divined chemical affinity; 



"222 A. HER ZEN 

for their formation exist, and worlds perish where these con- 
ditions do not. Yet this formation and disappearance 
affects only parts, while the sum total of all things that exist, 
containing all within itself, is eternal and infinite. "If any 
one . . . should throw, or attempt to throw, a flying dart. . . . 
I will -ask you what then would be the case with the javelin. 
The case will be, that a limit can nowhere exist; and that 
room for the flight of the javelin will still extend its flight." 
The universe lives in these metamorphoses. These are its 
life, its development, and at the same time its goal. The 
charming ignorance of the physical world displayed in Lucre- 
tius's writings sometimes provokes a smile; the part lie and 
part truth to be Jound in him is evident from the above. Yet 
more often than not he captivates the reader by the passion 
blazing throughout his poems. No one else showed so sym- 
pathetic an understanding of life in the interval which sep- 
arates Lucretius from Goethe. And only in the ancient world 
could the idea be conceived and realized of giving an account 
of cosmology and physics in a poem, in verses! That was 
because they regarded everything plastically, particularly 
nature. Love for life, for pleasure, in wise moderation, scorn 
for death* and a certain fraternal affectionate attitude for 
all things living, is what Lucretian philosophy propounds. 
He plunged into physics because paganism with its fatum and 
its Olympic deities of doubtful behaviour did not satisfy him. 
He solemnly and repeatedly proclaimed that Epicurus was 
the greatest of the Greeks, that morality conscious morality, 
human morality to which all pagan religion constituted an 
obstacle started with him,** land that since then man him- 



they understood that certain substances combine with some for which they 
have an affinity and do not combine with others for which they have none 
(homeomery) . A.M. 

* Among other things Lucretius says, to console the dying, is that all 
the dead are of same age for time does not exist for them. A.M. 

** Recall the eloquent pages of De Civitate Dei by St. Augustine, in 
which he denounces the vanity and inconsistency of pagan religion, its 
depravity. A//. 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 228 

self is the measure of morality, etc. Taking this as his point 
of departure and stimulated by his fiery heart, he went, of 
course, to extremes but, as he went, he encountered 'and nar- 
rated a world of beautiful things. His geogony is one of the 
best passages in his poem. He tells about the development of 
the planet after the struggle of the elements and up to that 
state of equilibrium when plants sprang into existence. Then 
came especially developed plants which found it irksome to 
be attached to the earth and longed to be free from their 
stalks. Thus the animal -appeared, and at last man, who was 
born right out of the earth on "a stalk. Although all that is 
rather amusing, it is yet difficult to imagine this transition 
from plants to animals in a 1 more poetic way than that of a 
flower detaching itself from a stalk -and flying off, a butterfly. 
Note that Lucretius also mentions that the necessary condi- 
tions for the origin of organic life is warmth iand moisture. 
Rejecting the immortality of the soul, he yet accepts some 
ethereal soul which is so light and volatile that no sooner 
does it fly out than it is lost in the infinite void; its component 
parts -are different in different cases: thus the lion's soul has 
taken in some fire :and that of the deer some cold wind! Now 
the earth is aging and therefore it has lost the ability to create 
new genera and is content to preserve those existing. It creat- 
ed them in its youth, when it was overflowing with energy 
and an excess of power. Thus even deformed beings could ap- 
pear, from whom nature later withdrew their right to life (so 
Lucretius conjectured the existence of fossils). 

Historia Naturalis by Pliny, an encyclopaedia, conceived 
and executed on an enormous scale, is a general symposium 
of knowledge, cosmological, physical, geographical, and so 
on. This might have proved to be the limit beyond which the 
knowledge of nature would not have gone in the Roman world 
had not Galen followed him. Galen, however, was occupied 
exclusively with medicine and therefore his discoveries, out- 
side the domain of pure pathology all belonged to physiology 
and -anatomy. Prior to Galen the current ideas of the nervous 
system were very confused; cords or tendons were often called 
nerves, and even when the latter were recognized, their 
functions were vaguely or incorrectly understood. Galen was 



234 A. 1IERZEN 

where. Rienzi the dreamer recalled the Rome of ancient times 
and intended to restore it. He was applauded by Petrarch, a 
reconstructor of classical art and a poet who wrote in the 
vulgar vernacular. Greeks often arrived from Byzantium with 
the golden fleece which had been buried in their land for ten 
centuries. Marsilio Ficino, a friend of Cosimo Medici, excel- 
lently translated Plato, Proclus and Plotinus. The very study 
of Aristotle assumed a fresh character. Hitherto he had been 
as oppressive as a yoke; he had been studied formally, me- 
chanically, from clumsy translations. Now the original was 
taken up. True enough, the minds of men had been so corrupt- 
ed by scholasticism as to become unable to understand any- 
thing in a simple way. Sensuous perception had been dulled; 
clear thinking was considered vulgar, while logomachy devoid of 
content and supported by the letter of the authorities was taken 
for the truth. The more ornate, imposing and unintelligible the 
writing, the higher the writer was ranked. Volumes of nonsensi- 
cal comments were written about Aristotle. Talents, energies, 
whcle lifetimes were spent on the most useless logomachy. 
But in the meantime the horizons broadened. Direct study of 
the ancient writers could not but help usher in new ideas, 
vivid and fresh -and whose influence proved of inestimable 
value. Medieval minds, feeble in capacity, weak ;and unaccus- 
tomed to think for themselves, could not with their own efforts 
rid themselves of lifeless formalism. They had no language 
with which to talk of real things. They were indeed ashamed 
to do so because they regarded such things 'as sheer non- 
sense. 

Suddenly a new tongue was discovered, ready-made, com- 
plete, well-knit and admirably suited to express the things 
that the scholastic doctors could not and dared not express. 
This strange tongue, moreover, rested on illustrious names. 
Conscious of their immaturity, the new scholars 'adopted new 
authorities and rebelled against the old. All spoke in quota- 
tions from Virgil and Cicero. Aristotle, on the contrary, w-as 
renounced. In the sixteenth century Francesco Patrizzi sub- 
mitted to Pope Gregory XIV a work in which he drew atten- 
tion to the contradiction between the doctrine of Aristotle and 
that of religion, which for five centuries running had been 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 236 

overlooked by the good scholastics who had justified 
their dogmata by Aristotle, and 'Aristotle by their dogmata, 
Finally, one of the oldest and nearly the chief centre of scho- 
lasticism Paris witnessed the advent of the Huss of Peripa- 
teticism, Pierre de la Ramee, who declared that against any man 
he was prepared to defend the following thesis: "The whole 
of Aristotle's teachings are false." The cries of indignation 
raised in the midst of the scholars reached the palace of Fran- 
cis I. The King had him put on trial to condemn him, and 
though he defended himself like a lion there was no mercy. 
He was indicted and banished; he wandered -all over Europe 
harassed and persecuted, larguing and moving from place to 
place. For half a century this man fought against Aristotle 
and finally fell. He preached 'against the Stagirite just as the 
Huguenots preached against the Pope. His resemblance to 
the Protestants is great. He was more prosaic, perhaps more 
commonplace and shallow than his enemies shallower than 
many commentators of Aristotle (Pomponazzi, for example), 
but his demands were practical and timely; he loathed formal- 
ism and hair-splitting, demanded practical application and 
fruitful results. He was inferior to Aristotle, just ias many 
Protestants were weaker than Catholicism, but he fought 
against Aristotle just as the Protestants fought against Catholi- 
cism in the sixteenth century. The same period produced a 
grand and uninterrupted procession of great and strong men 
who erected the propylaeum of new science. They were headed 
by Giordano Bruno (not in the order of time, but in importance), 
and then by Vanini, Cardan, Campanella, Telesio, Para- 
celsus* and others. The principal thing about these great men 
was their keen, true sensation of crampedness, their dissatis- 
faction with the close confines of contemporary science, their 
absorbing search for the truth, their perspicacity. 

The time of rebellion against scholasticism was full of dra- 
matic intensity. A scrutiny of the biographies and writings of 
these vigorous men who broke the chains with which science 



* He, in truth, n\ay be regarded as the first professor of chemistry in 
world history. A.M. 



226 A. HER ZEN 

was a kind of atheism. The fundamentals of civic life in the 
ancient republics still regarded as solely just and true 
were profaned by ian absurd travesty of them in the 
times of the empire. All those renunciations were, as you see, 
insincere, sly and fitful. The educated, realizing the absurdity 
of paganism, were blasphemous free-thinkers. Yet paganism 
remained the official creed and what was reviled *at home was 
worshipped in the streets, because the mob would have it so. 
It could not be otherwise: it was all thai they had. None found 
the courage to deny the fundamentals of ancient life for all 
to hear. And in the name of what could such lofty audacity 
arise? Within the life of Rome there could appear only the 
sombre, mournful renunciation of Sextus Empiricus, the mock- 
ing malice of Lucian, the cool erudition of Pliny and, finally, 
the disavowal expressed by licentiousness land apathy, the 
spiritual languor -and emotional fervour which is unaffected 
by religious or civic tenets, but can produce tears over the 
death of an eel and applause over the dying gladiator press- 
ing to his lips an image of the deified Caesar, i.e., the reign- 
ing Caesar of the moment. The disavowal leading to rebirth, 
to creation, was absent in Roman life and potentially lay in 
Christianity alone. 

Christianity was directly opposite to the ancient order of 
tilings. It was not the half-hearted and impotent renunciation 
previously mentioned* it was >a renunciation filled with 



* Compare the creative destruction of St. Augustine with the esprits 
forts of the ancient world, with their gnashing of teeth. Pliny, for in- 
stance, said that man's sole consolation is that the gods too are not 
omnipotent: they cannot became mortal, nor render man immortal, nor 
eradicate the past, nor alter the fact that two times ten is twenty. Bitterly, 
he rebuked the people who would not be satisfied with Olympus, but who, 
unable to forego it, invented fresh chains for themselves, bowed down 
before the abstract monstrosities, chance and fortune, and trembled like 
madmen before their own inventions. Lucian was the Voltaire of his age: 
take his Tragic Jupiter, for instance, this comic opera on Olympus. His 
Jupiter is confused by an argument between a Stoic and an Epicurian 
who denounce the gods. Quite at a loss, Jupiter convokes a council. But 
then there is a fresh argument over precedence. Jupiter decides that the 
golden gods should be first ensconced, then those of marble with the deities 
of Praxiteles at their head. Now Neptune demurs. He refuses to be placed 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 227 

power and hope. It was outspoken, merciless and sure of itself* 
Augustine's De Civitate Dei and the polemics of the early Chris- 
tian writers show how to repudiate what is old and decrepit. But 
this can be done only by those who are inspired by a new and 
holy faith. To the Christian the virtues 'of the pagan world 
Were no more than blazing sins. In the statue worshipped for 
its loveliness by the Greek he could see only sensuous naked- 
ness. Rejecting the beautiful temples of Greece, he preferred 
to erect his altar in a basilica so as not to serve the true god 
where false gods were worshipped. In place of pride the Chris- 
tian chose humbleness, in place of enrichment, voluntary beg- 
gary, in place of sensuous pleasures he enjoyed priva- 
tions.* Christianity was the direct antithesis of the 
ancient world. There are many who believe that the last three 
centuries 'are ias far removed from the Middle Ages as the 
latter from the ancient world. That view is not incorrect. The 
era of reformation and enlightenment was the final phase 
of Catholicism and feudalism and though it may have in 
many wiays overstepped the circle traced by the Vatican, 
it yet organically constitutes a continuation of the foregoing; 
the principles of West European socialism have remained in- 
tact, Christianity is still the moral basis of life, the new con- 
ception of law has grown out of ttte self-same Roman ius can- 
onicum and leges barbarorum, and it differs not in its 



below some dog-faced Egyptian monster of gold. The question of prece- 
dence is finally abandoned. But suddenly the Colossus of Rhodes rolls 
in with a great clatter and tramping and insists that far more copper 
went into the making of his body than did gold in the making of any 
of the golden gods. While they are bickering and while Jupiter is gathering 
ridiculous advice, notably the advice of the Olympian Skalozub 32 Hercules 
who craves permission to set the portico rocking over the heads of the 
company, the Epicurian has worsted the Stoic, and Olympus is thoroughly 
disgraced. Such vitriolic mockery could have served to shake paganism, 
particularly in certain circles, but it left a void in the heart. Moreover, th6 
same people who censored paganism regarded the socialism of the ancient 
world as their ideal. They wished to preserve Rome and Greece with their 
civic systems, one-sided and closely aligned with religion. A.H. 

* The expression is borrowed from a letter of St. Gregory of Nazianzen 
to Basil the Great: "Do you remember," he asks, "how we enjoyed priva- 
tions and fasting?" A.H. 

15* 



228 A. HERZEN 

underlying principles, but in its interpretation (often arbi- 
trary), shaped to suit the new stage of enlightenment. Neither 
Luther nor Voltaire drew a fiery line between the old and the 
new, as did Augustine. To them such a line of division would 
have been just as meaningless, as to Socrates land Plato who, 
though they had risen above the life of old Athens in many 
ways, were an integral part of it. Christianity's contrariness 
to the ancients called not for reformation, but for transforma- 
tion. Sensuous sand -artistic, the -ancient world took everything 
easily, with the smile of youth; everywhere it penetrated to 
the idea, yet nowhere it sacrificed its spontaneity or passed to 
the extreme deductions. Its science was a poem, its art reli- 
gion, its conception of man not separated from that of a citi- 
zen, its republic rested on the wretchedly oppressed caryatids 
of slavery, its morality consisted of juridical duties.* In its 
citizen it respected his voted rights, his privilege, but not his 
human self. That youthful world wias absorbingly beautiful 
and, at the same time, unpardonably light-minded. In philos- 
ophizing it rejected the most important problems because 
they were not easily solved, or rested content with frivolous 
solutions. Abandoning itself to luxury and enjoyments, it gave 
no thought to the slaves shackled in the dungeons -after their 
return from the fields. But suddenly the exquisite theatrical 
scenery confining the vision of the ancient world was gone 
and infinite vistas opened before it, regions hitherto unsus- 
pected in the world of harmonious proportion. Its very founda- 
tions seemed to be dwarfed by this infinity, tand the face of 
man, hitherto lost in civic affairs, was redeemed by God's word 
and elevated to in-accessible heights. Everyday values and 
civic values grew unimportant. The personality of the Chris- 
tian overshadowed the collective personality of the city. His 
own infinite dignity now stood revealed to the Christian. The 
Gospel solemnly proclaimed the rights of human beings and 
the latter for the first time learned what they were. Every- 
thing had to change! The old love of one's country, beautiful 

If some thinkers did rise above public morality they had already 
gone beyond the confines of the ancient outlook. In this respect Seneca 
was perhaps above them all and for that reason he stood at the very limit 
Of the ancient world.- A.H. 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 229 

and sublime, but unjust and limited, gave way to the love of 
one's neighbour, narrow nationalism to unity of creed. Where- 
as Rome had proudly conferred citizenship upon those chosen 
for the honour, Christianity offered the water of baptism to 
all. The -ancients unquestioning!/ believed in nature, in its 
reality, accepted it -as a fact, for they saw it with their own 
eyes. To them nature was everything -and beyond its bounds 
there could be nothing. In transient nature they saw the eter- 
nal and the spiritual. To them beauty was the supreme expres.- 
sion of the highest. They could never detach themselves from 
nature and for that very reason never came to know nature. 
The new world on the other hand refused to believe precisely 
in material nature, in the appearance of things. It rejected the 
reality of the transient, believed in the happenings that were 
spiritual. It regarded beauty as the most elementary expres- 
sion of the divine. It was inflexible, aware of its scission with 
nature; it strove for a spiritual conciliation with it in thought, 
for the expiation of nature within itself. The 'ancients had lived 
for the moment of the day, had often thought about the past, 
but never of the future. Even if the terrible thought of fatum, 
which haunted them incessantly, did occur to them, it did so 
only to impell them to pleasures with such advice as non 
curiamo Vincerto dotnani, .a drinking song from Lucrezia Bor- 
gia. Hence that rapturously sensual bien-etre, that luxury in 
pleasure, that passionate languor verging on the poetical or 
on abominable bestiality, in comparison with which our luxury 
is cheap and our licentiousness ridiculous. The after-life did 
not seem to exist for the ancient world. In the nether world 
Achilles told Ulysses that he would willingly become a slave 
ii only to return to earth. The thought of death terrified them 
sometimes, but thoughts of a future life almost never occurred 
to them. The belief in immortality had, on the contrary, 
become one of the cornerstones o c Christianity. Realizing his 
own immortality and the transience of all things of nature, 
man came to regard everything around .him in quite a differ- 
ent light. 

'The two cities have brought forth two loves: the earthly 
city, a love of self unto scorn of God; the divine city, a 
of God unto scorn of self." (De Civ. Dei.) 



230 A. HERZEN 

While the preaching of the Gospel changed the inner man, 
the decrepit polity continued its existence obviously contradic- 
tory to the dogmas of religion. The Christians adopted the 
Roman state and Roman law. The vanquished and expiring 
world thus found a path into the camp of the victors. The 
Eastern Empire, which had embraced Christianity in all its 
purity, carried on in the manner of Caesarian rule, which 
Diocletian, one of the worst persecutors of Christianity, elab- 
orated to the point of absurdity. The Western Empire, too, 
witnessed the advent of a new, likewise unchristian element 
Teutonism, that common spirit of the savage hordes terrible 
in their innocent thirst for blood, in their nomadic restlessness, 
in their fighting fraternity and love of untrammelled willful- 
ness. It was necessary to pacify and tame the savages; it was 
necessary to break the iron of their unhampered will with a 
will even harder, more unyielding. That great task was taken 
up by the higher priests of Rome. In its performance they lost 
their aloofness to the things of this world. Catholicism tore 
the Teuton from his ground, gave him another grounding, but 
itself, -at the same time, took root in the very earthliness from 
which it strove to remove the laity. Anxious to rule over the 
things of this world, the priest had to become practical, to 
concern himself with the flesh pots. To renounce them, he was 
compelled first to accept them. An interminable struggle began 
between the clerical and secular order of things. Slowly but 
surely Catholicism gained the upper hand, achieved victory 
to enjoy the fruits of its labours in the person of Leo X, for 
instance, who more resembled a valorous Caesar than a regent 
cf St. Peter. The struggle penetrated all aspects of life. The 
oddest contradictions were constantly to be found in one and 
the same person. This fight between the Guelphs and Ghibel- 
lines, which repeated itself in various forms, resembles the 
contest between the serpent and the man described by Dante, 
in which the man i at times becomes a serpent -and the serpent 
a man. There is one thing that is not to be found in this bat- 
tie: egotism and apathy. Everything is swept into the fight, into 
the vortex, and in everything there is an element of infinity 
and something of madness. 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 23J 

The scientific interests of the time were concentrated upon 
scholasticism, that hard, dry -and lumbering amphibi-an which 
replaced genuine science up to the time of indignant unrest 
and the liberation of theoretical activity in the sixteenth cen- 
tury. Scholasticism established its relation to the truth and 
the subject of its studies on a curious, purely formal -and imi- 
tative basis. Do not think that scholasticism was Christi-an 
wisdom. No, it was to be found among the fathers of the church 
in the early centuries, especially in the East. It was neither 
wholly religious nor wholly scientific. Wavering in faith, it 
turned to syllogisms -and wavering in logic, it turned to faith. 
It subjected its dogmata to the most elaborate ratiocination 
and the latter to the most literal assumption of the dogmata. 
The one thing it had long dreaded like the plague was inde- 
pendence of thought. Anything but parting with the guiding 
strings of Aristotle or some other 'acknowledged authority. 
Natural science was out of question: the scholastics were so 
scornful of nature that they would not be concerned with it. 
Nature so horribly contradicted their dualism; it took no part 
in their everlasting debates, and what attention could it ex- 
pect from them, convinced ias they were that the highest wis- 
dom existed solely in their definitions, differentiations, etc.? 
They regarded nature as a lowly slave ready to serve any 
whim of man, to abet his evil desires, to distract him from the 
higher life; at the same time, they were afraid of its myste- 
rious daemonic influence; they implicitly believed that the forces 
of the universe were in personal contact with every man 
land were either hostile or benign. It was inevitable that the 
study of natural science should be replaced by astrology, al- 
chemy ,and sorcery. From the confined view of scholastic dual- 
ism the significance of everything natural was perversely de- 
termined: everything that was good was taken from nature 
and placed outside of it, though no one thought to enquire just 
where its boundaries lay. Everything natural, physical was 
hidden behind a veil. The flesh was a thing to be ashamed of; 
it was the dissolute mistress of the spirit, a connection that 
was deeply deplored. The people of that time imagined that 
inside the globe there was Lucifer devouring Judas and Bru- 
tus, to whom jail things ponderous of the material world and 



232 A. HERZEK 

everything evil of the moral world gravitated. They wanted 
to trample upon, to destroy all that was mortal to know it 
not. There was nothing in scholasticism of world sorrow, of 
conciliation, of love, though it held forth on the latter at great 
length. It was the apotheosis of the abstract sand formal 
thought of an egotistic personality which had come to realize 
its own worth, but was as yet unworthy of conceiving that as 
such it was entitled not to ignore nature, but to set free both 
nature -and itself through genuine thinking filled with love for 
all. The scholastics had not sufficiently comprehended Chris- 
tianity to interpret redemption not as the denial of what is 
mortal, but as its salvation. Christianity actually nullifies 
dualism and that was something beyond the -austere vision of 
the Catholic theologians.* Notice that this was one of the 
gravest errors of the Western outlook which subsequently 
aroused so violent -a reaction; it imparted to the Middle Ages 
their dismal, constrained and gloomy character. 

The scholastic world was a sad world. It was a world of woe 
where everything spontaneous was annihilated, a world of dull 
formalism and dead views of life. Thought ceased to be a vir- 
tuous need, as Aristotle called it. It harassed and tormented 
medieval man; it realized its power of division and went be- 
tween the heart and the mind, between the subject and the 
predicate, between spirit and matter, striving to exalt the in- 
ner world and thereby discredit everything external. The unity 
of being and thought had stood in the foreground among the 
ancients and the contradiction of the two was equally con- 
spicuous among the scholastics. The famous debates of the no- 
minalists and the realists would otherwise not have arisen. 
The fact that there was a Roger Bacon who did not scorn to 
experiment, or a Raymond Lully, who, amid a thousand and 
one fantastic and poetic ventures, plunged into chemistry, proves 
nothing. Isolated instances such ias these had no bearing 



* Paul the Apostle in his Epistle to the Romans says: 
"For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain 
together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also . . . groan with- 
in ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our 
body." This the scholastics would not understand. A//, 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 233 

on the general background. Dry and rationalistic spiritualism, 
literal interpretations, logical subterfuges, dialectical imper- 
tinences and servility to the authorities, such were the typical 
features of scholasticism up to the Reformation in the sixteenth 
century. At the end of that century, Pierre de la Ramee perished 
because he had dared to rebel against Aristotle. Giorda- 
no Bruno and Vanini were put to death for their scientific con- 
victions, the one in 1600, the other in 1619. How much of 
genuine science could spring up in this stifling atmosphere? 
There was only formalism, a pale shoot of ivy creeping up the 
prison walls. Formalism shed only ( a_ languorous, moonish 
light without warmth or colour. The questions it posed* were 
so far removed from life and so petty that the jealous censor- 
ship of the Pope could well endure them. Scientific studies at 
that time (acquired a purely bookish nature, quite alien to the 
ancient world. Those who desired knowledge opened the books 
and turned away from life and nature. Searching for the truth, 
Hie scholastics looked behind. They sought simply to learn it, 
certain as they were that the whole of it had been fully set 
down. Needless to say they made no progress. This habit of 
theirs to a certain extent entered into the very blood of the 
German scholars. 

At last, after a millennium of restless slumber, mankind had 
gathered sufficient strength for a new feat in thought. Fresh 
needs awoke in the fifteenth century; the gentle breeze of a 
fresh morning began to blow. The age of regeneration had 
begun. The interests of men came to centre more and more 
upon real things, upon sea voyages then undertaken to un- 
known parts of the globe, upon the strange idea of Copernicus 
which sometimes mortified the scholastics, upon the incon- 
spicuous discoveries at the furnace in a stifling workshop, 
discoveries of which the alchemist Claude Frollo once 
said to the humble abbot beati Martini: ceci tuera ceta. It 
was not architecture, however, that perished, but ignorance. 
The new demands grew audible in Italy earlier than else- 



* The subjects of scholastic argument are sometimes amazing. For in- 
stance: "Had Adam in his primordial state been familiar with the Liber 
sententiarum of Peter Lombard or no?" A.H. 



234 A. HER ZEN 

where. Rienzi the dreamer recalled the Rome of ancient times 
and intended to restore it. He was applauded by Petrarch, a 
reconstructor of classical art and a poet who wrote in the 
vulgar vernacular. Greeks often arrived from Byzantium with 
the golden fleece which had been buried in their land for ten 
centuries. Marsilio Ficino, a friend of Cosimo Medici, excel- 
lently translated Plato, Proclus and Plotinus. The very study 
of Aristotle assumed a fresh character. Hitherto he had been 
as oppressive as a yoke; he had been studied formally, me- 
chanically, from clumsy translations. Now the original was 
taken up. True enough, the minds of men had been so corrupt- 
ed by scholasticism as to become unable to understand any- 
thing in a simple way. Sensuous perception had been dulled; 
clear thinking was considered vulgar, while logomachy devoid of 
content and supported by the letter of the authorities was taken 
for the truth. The more ornate, imposing and unintelligible the 
writing, the higher the writer was ranked. Volumes of nonsensi- 
cal comments were written about Aristotle. Talents, energies, 
whcle lifetimes were spent on the most useless logonnachy. 
But in the meantime the horizons broadened. Direct study of 
the ancient writers could not but help usher in new ideas, 
vivid and fresh -and whose influence proved of inestimable 
value. Medieval minds, feeble in capacity, weak ! and unaccus- 
tomed to think for themselves, could not with their own efforts 
rid themselves of lifeless formalism. They had no language 
with which to talk of real things. They were indeed ashamed 
to do so because they regarded such things 'as sheer non- 
sense. 

Suddenly a new tongue was discovered, ready-made, com- 
plete, well-knit and admirably suited to express the things 
that the scholastic doctors could not a-nd dared not express. 
This strange tongue, moreover, rested on illustrious names. 
Conscious of their immaturity, the new scholars 'adopted new 
authorities and rebelled against the old. All spoke in quota- 
tions from Virgil and Cicero. Aristotle, oh the contrary, w-as 
renounced. In the sixteenth century Francesco Patrizzi sub- 
mitted to Pope Gregory XIV a work in which he drew atten- 
tion to the contradiction between the doctrine of Aristotle and 
that of religion, which for five centuries running had been 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 236 

overlooked by the good scholastics who had justified 
their dogmata by Aristotle, and "Aristotle by their dogmata. 
Finally, one of the oldest and nearly the chief centre of scho- 
lasticism Paris witnessed the advent of the Huss of Peripa- 
teticism, Pierre de la Ramee, who declared that against any man 
he was prepared to defend the following thesis: 'The whole 
of Aristotle's teachings are false." The cries of indignation 
raised in the midst of the scholars reached the palace of Fran- 
cis I. The King had him put on trial to condemn him, and 
though he defended himself like a lion there was no mercy. 
He was indicted and banished; he wandered 'all over Europe 
harassed and persecuted, targuing and moving from place to 
place. For half a century this man fought against Aristotle 
and finally fell. He preached 'against the Stagirite just as the 
Huguenots preached against the Pope. His resemblance to 
the Protestants is great. He was more prosaic, perhaps more 
commonplace and shallow than his enemies shallower than 
many commentators of Aristotle (Pomponazzi, for example), 
but his demands were practical and timely; he loathed formal- 
ism and hair-splitting, demanded practical application and 
fruitful results. He was inferior to Aristotle, just ias many 
Protestants were weaker than Catholicism, but he fought 
against Aristotle just -as the Protestants fought against Catholi- 
cism in the sixteenth century. The same period produced a 
grand and uninterrupted procession of great and strong men 
who erected the propylaeum of new science. They were headed 
by Giordano Bruno (not in the order of time, but in importance), 
and then by Vanini, Cardan, Campanella, Telesio, Para- 
celsus* and others. The principal thing about these great men 
w.as their keen, true sensation of crampedness, their dissatis- 
faction with the close confines of contemporary science, their 
absorbing search for the truth, their perspicacity. 

The time of rebellion against scholasticism was full of dra- 
matic intensity. A scrutiny of the biographies and writings of 
these vigorous men who broke the chains with which science 



* He, in truth, may be regarded as the first professor of chemistry in 
world history. A#. 



A. HER ZEN 



was shackled will show that they were involved in a twofold 
struggle. One part of the struggle proceeded in their souls, a 
hard and spiritual fight, constantly agitating and imparting tc 
many of them an eccentric, -almost frantic aspect. The other 
was external, a 1 fight which ended at the stake or in a dungeon; 
for scholasticism, terrified by the assaults, took refuge behind 
the Inquisition, replied to the daring theses of its opponents by 
sentencing them to death, silenced them with the hangman's 
pincers which tore out their tongues. Many may wonder -at the 
vacillating inconsistency and strength of will displayed by 
these men, at the incompleteness of their ideas and complete- 
ness of their sacrifices. But is it possible to rid oneself of his- 
torical prejudices at once? It was not lack of understanding 
that -accounted for their vacillation. The truth is -always more 
simple than the absurd, but the mind of man is no empty re- 
ceptacle of understanding, no tabula rasa. It is, indeed, dogger) 
from the day of birth .with historical prejudices, beliefs, and 
so on; it was difficult for the mind to recover a normal attitude 
to simple understanding, and especially so in those days. There 
is nothing surprising in the fact that Paracelsus believed in 
alchemy and that Cardan called himself a magician.* They 
found it hard to rid themselves of opinions hallowed through 
the centuries or to reconcile them with the growing conscious- 
ness. Nor did they achieve this. They were in such an exalted 
state that they could never arrange things properly. It was the 
a^e of first lov.e, of ecstasy, an age of amazing events. It would 
be useless to expect scientific methods from them. They had 
only just discovered the foundations of science, had only just 
unfettered thought and its portent was grasped rather by their 
hearts and imaginations than by their minds. 

Centuries had to pass before science could evolve methodi- 
cally those truths which Giordano Bruno proclaimed with such 
ecstasy, inspiration and foresight. These convictions came to 
be part of their very being, lent them strength, -and heartened 
them in open battle. Harried from country to country ;and beset 
with perils they did not yield to prudent fear and bury the 



* Even Francis Bacon could not entirely rid himself of astrology and 
magic. A.H. 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 23< 

truths they were destined to proclaim. They propounded them 
everywhere and wherever it was impossible to do so openly 
draped them in masquerade, clothed them in allegories, hid 
them under secret signs, covered them with a veil transparent 
to those who were attentive, who wished to know, but inscru- 
table to enemies. Love is more discerning and resourceful than 
hatred. At times they were compelled to take recourse to their 
stratagems to avoid frightening away the timid spirits of their 
contemporaries; at other times to avoid immediate execution 
at the stake. It is easy for a man to set forth his convictions 
today when he is concerned only with finding the clearest way 
of expressing himself. In that epoch it was impossible. Coper- 
nicus draped his discovery with the authority of the ancient 
philosophers, which perhaps preserved him from the persecu- 
tions that later befell Galileo and all his followers. Cunning 
was imperative. "Cunning," said one thinker, "is the femininity 
of will, the irony of wild force." Machiavelli knew <a thing or 
two about this sort of cunning. All this gave an air of tremu- 
lous anxiety and agitation to the -active thinkers of the time. 
They were at peace neither with themselves nor with the world. 
Only he can be fully tranquil who is a zoological specimen, or 
who, having once and for all allayed -all doubts, finds the ex- 
ternal world in accordance with his inner convictions. They 
were restless because the surrounding order of things was 
growing more and more vulgar and absurd, and their inner 
world was shaken. Having discerned the one and the other, 
they could not conceal that they were iat odds with the world 
and could not help being restless. People like Bruno were not 
blessed with the great gift of leading a happy and tranquil life 
in an environment antagonistic to their convictions. 

To give >a vivid example of the inspired and youthful think- 
ing of this epoch I shall set down ;a few principal ideas of Gior- 
dano Bruno who had doubtlessly outdistanced all his asso- 
ciates.* 



* For the most detailed data on Bruno, with numerous quotations, see 
Gesch. der neueren Philosophic, by Buhle, II, Bd., pp. 703-856. The author 
has availed himself of many unknown writings by Bruno, which he found 
in the Gottingen Library. 



238 A. HERZEN 

Bruno's principal idea was to evolve and comprehend life as 
a single, universal, infinite principle and consummation of lall 
existing things, to conceive the universe as a single entity and 
to conceive this very entity as the infinite unity of reason and 
being the unity which forced its triumphant way through the 
barriers of diversity. These were the cornerstones of Bruno's 
conception, directly opposite to the dualism of scholasticism. 
Life is one, the mind is one, and the unity which links them 
is one, iand consequently, concludes Bruno, if the mind is re- 
garded in the totality of -all its moments it will comprise all 
things that exist. Was this not a direct prognosis of the logical 
philosophy of our times? 

"Within its bounds, nature can produce everything from any- 
thing and the mind can know everything from anything/ 1 said 
Bruno. He conceives of nature and the mind as of two phases 
of one and the same development. "One and the same matter 
undergoes all forms: that which has been a seed turns into a 
blade of grass, an ear of wheat, nourishing juice, an embryo, 

a man, a corpse, earth But there is some residue left of this 

development matter. It itself is absolute, while its manifesta- 
tions are conditioned. Matter is everything because it is noth- 
ing in particular; the active possibility of forms is inherent in 
it. By life it is developed to the point of transition into mind. 
Nature contains a- vestige of the idea (vestigium) ; after its 
physical being (post naturalia) there begins cognition, the 
shadow of the idea (umbra). Neither the works of nature nor 
the conception taken separately ever reach completeness. Thus, 
for example, every man is at every moment everything he can 
be at this moment, but not everything he can be in general 
according to his essential being. The universe, on the contrary, 
is what it can be, actually and -at once, for it embraces all 
substantiality with all the constant forms of its varying works. 
Herein lies its great unity and self-identity. Every point of the 
universe is a point of convergence. Its centre and periphery 
are indivisible just >as the greatest ! and the smallest every 
point being in the power of God." "But," -adds Bruno, "to know 
the truth it is not enough to conceive unity as a point uniting 
differences: it should be conceived in such a way -as to enable us 
to deduce all the contradictions from it." One may imagine 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 23& 

'how the doctors sublissimorum dialecticorum gaped when 
they heard such profound, inspired speech. I shall add -another 
quotation to show how strikingly true was his view on evil. 

"There is no actual contradiction between the umbrae of the 
idea. The same conception combines the beautiful and the ugly, 
the good ;and the evil. The evil, the imperfect has no idea of its 
own, on which it can rest, and according to which it might be 
determined (according to its ideal). Everything real presup- 
poses its own idea 'and conception; but the point is that the con- 
ception of the evil lies in the other (in the opposite); the evil 
has no conception of its own; and, moreover, the conception 
on which evil depends denies its reality; and so the evil is non- 
existent existence, something negative (non ens in ente, vel, 
ut apertius dicam, defectus in effecto)" Hegel, I believe, did 
not give Bruno all the credit he deserved. W-as this because 
Schelling had ranked him so high? This was quite understand- 
able. Bruno was a live, beautiful link between Neoplatonism, 
which had exercised noticeable influence upon him, land Schel- 
ling's philosophy of nature, upon which he in turn exercised 
great influence. Hegel did not want to recognize Bruno as a 
man of the new world, just as he did not want to regard 
Boehme as a man of the Middle Ages; or perhaps in the heart 
of this supreme German thinker there were national ties with 
theosopho teutonico, while the hot and virile blood of the Italian 
w.as less congeni-al to him. Boehme was -a great man, but that 
was no reason why Giordano Bruno should not stand ,at his 
side. He too was a great man.* As we leave Italy, let us note that 
brilliant initiative in the new science that had been displayed 
by Latin thinkers. Gifted as they were in -all other spheres, how- 
ever, they took but little part in the new philosophy, :as though 
the whole of their capacity for philosophic thought had been 
spent on their early initiative. The new philosophy, the philos- 
ophy of the Reformation produced a dualism superior to the 
scholastic variety, but it was dualism nonetheless, and deceived 
the hopes of the live and realistic Latin minds which even at 



* We shall not bypass Boehma, though it should be stated that he had 
little influence on the history of science. It is only in our century that he 
has been scientifically interpreted and understood. A.H. 



240 A. HER ZEN 

the end of the sixteenth century had risen above dualism. If it 
is so, Latin thought may yet consummate what has been begun. 
In that age of excitement and vigour, people clamoured 
against the medieval life on a-11 sides, denounced it everywhere 
and demanded change in all things: the church of Rome was 
finishing its struggle against Lutheranism, suffering the accept- 
ance of the Protestants as an accomplished fact. Scholasticism 
ha-d decidedly realized its impotency -against the onset of new 
ideas, i.e., the ideas of the ancient world. Science, art, litera- 
ture, everything changed to the antique, so that the Gothic 
.church again gave place to the Greek peripteros and the Roman 
rotonda. Classical views compelled people to see things in a 
clear way. The Latin tongue of Rome taught them the use of 
mainly and vigorous speech. The school Latin, in use until 
then, had been poor, distorted and clumsy, a language that had 
lost its soul, as it were. The .ancient writers had a humanizing 
effect upon the unnatural people of the Middle Ages, roused 
them from the egotism of romantic rapture and psychic aggra- 
vations. Remember how Goethe in his Romischen Elegien de- 
scribed how the Italian skies had affected him, a man raised un- 
der the dull skies of Germany. And that is just how the scholars 
of the sixteenth century were -affected by classical literature. 
"Away with the trite, scholastic 'arguments," medieval man ex- 
claimed. "Let us listen to the odes of Horatius, let us breathe 
deeply under these bright, azure skies, let us feast our eyes on 
those exuberant trees in whose shades wine may flow, and 
lovers' embraces are no longer sinful. 'Humanitas, humaniora' " 
rang out from all quarters and man felt that these earthly 
words sounded a vivere memento which had come*to replace 
memento mori and to link him with nature by new ties. Huma- 
nitas reminded people not that they would turn to earth iagain, 
but that they had sprung from the earth; and they rejoiced, 
therefore, to find it underfoot, to be able to walk upon it. It was 
Catholic severity and the German trend to melancholy which 
prepared the way to this sharp change. A closer scrutiny of 
the Middle Ages will, of course, show that then the people per- 
functorily rather than otherwise submitted to the dicta of the 
Vatican and to the romantic tenor. Life everywhere stealthily 
sought to compensate itself for the. poverty and narrowness of 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE . 241 

the medieval order. It rested content with doing penitence at 
regular intervals, with a show of conformity or, later, for greater 
convenience, with buying indulgences. Life, nonetheless, was 
gloomy and constrained. Owing to the conventions every man 
concealed from his neighbour the thought that happened to 
occur to him or the feeling he happened to have a ( t the moment. 
He was, indeed, ashamed of his thoughts and feelings, and 
afraid of them. There was much that was lyrical -and touching 
about romianticism, but little that was bright, simple a-nd sin- 
cere. Man, of course, abandoned himself to joys and pleasures 
even then, but he did so with the feeling with which a Moslem 
drinks wine, yielding to an indulgence which he has renounced. 
Yielding to his yearnings he felt humiliated because he could 
not resist a desire which he could not deem just. The human 
breast, from which it was impossible to banish what w*as 
earthly, heaved uneasily, craved a more even tenor of life. Ever- 
lasting constraints became 'as igalling as the metal on the body 
of a knight permanently armoured. Man longed for peace of 
mind, something which romanticism could not offer, because it 
was essentially based on discordance and contradictions: its 
love was platonic and jealous, its hopes attached /to the after- 
life; inconsolable grief lay <at the bottom of its inner world; its 
poetry was pervaded with this self-lacerating grief ever^ con- 
centrated upon its own personality, ever reopening its fictitious 
wounds which oozed tears instead of blood. The egotistic ro- 
manticist luxuriated in these torments, in his simplicity regard- 
ing himself -as a martyr. The longed-for peace, the yearned-for 
tranquillity was to be found at the outset in the art of the lan- 
cient world, in its philosophy. Soft, humane shoots began to 
take root in the hard soil of Gothic conceptions. The romanti- 
cist was on the point of realizing that the first requisite of en- 
joyment is to forget oneself: he kneeled before the artistic 
works of the ancient world and learned to worship the beauti- 
ful disinterestedly. Greco-Roman thinking was resurrected for 
him in sparkling vestments. Those parts of it which should 
have decayed had done so in its millennium-old grave. Purified, 
ever young like Achilles, ever passionate like Aphrodite, it 
stood revealed to the people and they, as always susceptible 
to novelties, callously forgot romantic art, turned away from 

161157 



242 A. HEKZEN 

its virginal beauty, from its coy dnapings. The worship of ian- 
cient art was no passing whim. This was its proper due. This 
was the onJy right that it still possessed and would continue to 
possess for all time: this was its truth which could never pass 
away, the immortality of Greece and Rome. But Gothic iart too 
had its truth which could not be discarded. In ian epoch of strife, 
however, there is no time for such considerations. 

Europe accepted ancient learning in the same way that Rus- 
sia, under Peter I, was later to accept European enlightenment. 
However, one should not ignore the fact that the classical edu- 
cation which had spread all over Europe was an (aristocratic 
education. It belonged to an undefined and yet very real class 
of educated people proprie sic dictum, magistrates, clergymen, 
scholars and knights as they passed from military to court 
aristocracy, and, finally, the well-to-do and leisured. The peas- 
ants, the plain people of the cities, i.e., the tradesmen, appren- 
tice workmen not only failed to take any part in this change, 
but were separated from the well-educated sections by a 
broader and deeper gulf than before. The new languages which 
came into use 'at that time did nothing to narrow the gulf. 
Though circulated in the vernacular, the ideas that were writ- 
ten and spoken were of Latin and Greek origin, just as the ideas 
written and spoken in Latin during the Middle Ages had noth- 
ing at all to do with Rome. The change plunged the masses 
into the starkest ignorance. Formerly they had had their trou- 
badours and legends. Their preachers had preached to them 
(and their friars had visited them. There had been a link be- 
tween them and higher education. Now the talented and the 
educated absorbed elements which were alien to the people and 
did not appeal to them. It should be borne in mind that the 
new civilization had had no time to work itself into the inner 
life of those who had embraced it to the extent of enabling them 
to express themselves freely, i.e., in their own way. The poets 
who sang praises to Greek gods and Roman heroes borrowed 
their raptures from Virgil. The prosaics wrote and spoke in 
imitation of Cicero, but the melancholy -and indifferent crowds 
did not heed them: they had been deprived of their singers, of 
legends and sagas which had stirred their hearts with 
familiar sounds -and kindred images. This secession from the 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 243 

masses, which was not fostered by feudal prejudices, but sub- 
consciously grew out of education itself, has complicated iand 
confused the development of true citizenship in Europe. An 
aristocracy of education iand knowledge is by far more humil- 
iating to the masses than an aristocracy of blood. The former 
is based not on a spontaneous attitude or on obscure beliefs, 
but on the consciousness of superiority, on overweening 
scorn for the masses. This artificial education which was coming 
to replace feudal Gothism, was arrogant, looked down on 'all. 
This overweening haughtiness may be found in tall of its repre- 
sentatives, in Voltaire and Bolingbroke, in the doctrinaires of 
the Revolution of 1830 and in the professorial philosophers of 
Berlin. And yet the genius of Europe was not disheartened by 
the split, did not languish in despondency, regretting the days 
of old, and despairing of getting over the accomplished fact 
Not a little of passing evil occurs along with the permanent 
good even in the private life of a single family, let alone in the 
complex life of an entire nation. The evil is an unfortunate but 
sometimes necessary condition of good, and eventually it passes 
away, while the good remains. A vigorous nature assimi- 
lates the evil, struggles with it and overcomes it. It is able to 
extricate itself from difficult situations, to bury what was dear 
to its heart and, still true to itself, go forth to fresh deeds and 
labours. Weak natures, on the contrary, are lost in lamenta- 
tions, long for the impossible, for the return of the past. They 
cannot get their bearings in reality and, like the Etrurian 
priests,33 sing nothing but funeral songs; they have not the 
sense to discern the new life and its bridal hymns. 

Whereas the classical education bypassed the masses and 
severed them from the upper classes, the Reformation, with its 
schisms, did nothing of the sort. The mysticism and doctrines 
stimulated by the Protestants, their mysterious simplicity 
which had come to replace the majestic ritual of Catholicism, 
their problems of religious dogma touched the conscience of 
every man. Even the British nature forgot its practical mood 
and plunged into the labyrinth of theological subtleties. The 
Germans, needless to say, did the same. The consequences of 
these quarrels and strife accorded well with the popular spirit: 

tf" 



244 A. HERZEN 

Cromwell and Pennsylvania in England and Jacob Boehme in 
Germany. We shall say a few words 'about the latter. 

Self-cognition reveals itself not in science alone. The logical 
form is the final, culmimating form beyond which knowledge 
proper does not go. Far from being an exclusive organ of self- 
cognition, science is for ia long time to be an inadequate, still 
rudimentary organ of it. Of course, science, in the absolute 
sense of the word, is the eternal organism of the truth, but it 
is time we agreed that in reality, i.e., in time iand history every- 
thing is relative and that, therefore, only historical science is 
meant when we speak of actual development. In logic every- 
thing is completely sub specie aeternitatis. It is precisely for 
this reason that the transient has not yet found in it its iden- 
tity with the eternal. As long as reason and truth are separated, 
and form and content oppose each other, science will not be in 
a position to deduce the complete truth of self-cognition or the 
complete self-cognition of the truth, which is the same. While 
the higher forms are being evolved, man becomes more 'and 
more self-cognizant in other spheres of activity through expe- 
rience, events and the whole of his interrelation with the envi- 
ronment, through exalted poetical presage. At first man's self- 
cognition was his instinct l the .animal's unconscious sagacity, 
vague irresistible impulses, the gratification of which, while re- 
lieving the animal side of his nature, stimulated his human 
aspect. The nascent mind unfolded its content in two directions. 
In the practical sphere it 'appeared in the formation of communal 
life as everyday wisdom of conduct and action, tas a versatile 
link between labour -and the environment and as the develop- 
ment of the moral will. The thought which evolved in this 
sphere had all the plenitude and vitality of the concrete, inex- 
pressible in abstract terms. Everything practical appeared in 
the form of the particular, arbitrary, one-time gratification of 
the physical or spiritual needs: the higher meaning of its crea- 
tive whole was lost because of the clatter of hammers, the dust, 
the fragmentary character of life. But as soon as man had 
wiped his brow after the arduous labour of settling down, he 
felt an urge of a different kind. He was now disturbed by some- 
thing new, and his naive mind, still unseparated from the 
senses and unaware of its potentialities, began to clothe nature 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 245 

and thoughts in vivid colours of childish fancy. Unchecked at 
first, his fancies tassumed, as they became more balanced, the 
exquisite and harmonious aspect of a work of art. In it the 
contents and the envelope were actually combined, thought was 
spontaneous .and spontaneity was spiritualized. In the form of 
ia statue, man perceived outside himself the reconciliation he 
had sought, and therefore worshipped it 'and called it Apollo 
or Pallas. Not for long though. Restless thought corroded the 
work of art, subjugated the form to itself and reduced it to 
mere symbolism and itself ascended to the heights of inspired, 
mysterious contemplation. In this symbolism self-cognition 
found an image, a tongue that facilitated the comprehension 
of the truth ineffable, yet ever present to the consciousness. 
Here the image was no longer the living and integral body of 
an idea as had been the case with the work of art. Having con- 
veyed its meaning to roan, having served its purpose as a 
chalice of the truth, this symbolic image was ready to dis- 
appear, to fade away in the light of the self-cognizing idea. 
The last faint glimmer of this image mirrored man's own fea- 
tures, but transformed and ennobled them. Man recognized him- 
self in the reflection, yet was afnaid to do so. Symbolism was 
the tongue, the inspired hieroglyphics of mystical self-cogni- 
tion. The language used by Pythagoras, Proclus 'and Jacob 
Bochme, the images they employed, may always be interpreted 
differently: Ihey serve 'as mirrors of reason to reason, as mir- 
rors of sensuality to sensuality. These light and inspired hiero- 
glyphics become queer phantoms in the rough hands of the sen- 
sual mystics, who return to materialism through bigotry; the 
spirit that animated them, their religious idea flies away. The 
lacy veil barely quivering between man and the truth becomes 
a clammy shroud, iand the vivid thought which shone in the 
eyes of inspired contemplation changes into the mad and 
melancholy stare of the sorcerer and cabbalist. 

I thought it necessary to remind you of all this before 
approaching the strange personality of Jiacob Boehme. His 
inspired mystical contemplation, which sprang from a sacred 
source, led him to conceptions so broad in scope as to be un- 
dreamed of in the science of his times, to the truth which man- 
kind learned but yesterday, whereas Boehme lived some two 



246 A. HERZEN 

hundred odd years ago. And the very same conceptions of 
Boehme, clothed in queer, mystical iand alchemical vestments, 
have given rise to the most eccentric and most insane deviations 
from the simple-hearted acceptance of the truth. Swedenborgians, 
Eckartshausen, Stilling, and their followers, Hohenlohe and the 
present-day German seers, the conjurors, the lepers, the de- 
ranged, all these bigots of diverse, unread magazines iand 
diverse mad-houses have drawn a great part of their obscuran- 
tism from Jacob Boehme. 

I cannot outline completely the whole of Boehme's doctrine 
and will confine myself to setting down several of its features. 
But then, ex ungue leoneml 

Boehme's language is crude and obscure, but his sharp, 
original speech is full of vigorous, fiery poetry. Here are the 
principal ideas of his philosophy of nature. 

"Everything arises from yes and no. Yes considered outside 
of no is eternal peace, everything and nothing, eternal silence, 
freedom from all suffering and consequently from every joy, in- 
difference, unperturbed stillness. But yes cannot exist without 
no; the latter is indispensable for its transition from indiffer- 
ence. No is in itself nothing, and nothing is a striving towards 
something (eine Sucht nach Etwas) . Yes and no are not different 
from one another, but distinct. Without distinction there would 
be neither image nor consciousness and life would be an eter- 
nal, dispassionate, indifferent emanation; desire presupposes 
that something for which we strive is not. No impedes the in- 
finite radiance of the positive and at the point where the two 
meet life bursts forth. This is a transition which preserves the 
infinite development for finite determinedness. Entering diver- 
sity, the unity divaricates 'and in this divarication returns, in 
consciousness, to a new spiritual unity. There would be no light 
if there were no darkness, and even if there were light, would 
it light up anything if there were nothing to impede it? But 
light creates darkness by itself, the weariness of indifference 
striving for distinction. And this accounts for the eternal need 
to be something (Etwasseinwolleri) . The ego (i.e., subjectiv- 
ity) of nature is manifested in this need for divarication 

Revealing the eternal and divine will, nature is the work of 
serene eternity; it forms, produces, divaricates in order to be 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 247 

joyously conscious of itself That which consciousness ex- 
presses in the word, nature moulds into properties. The first prop- 
erty of eternal nature (Boehme distinguishes between the eter- 
nal properties and their temporal manifestations. He calls the 
former eternal nature and the latter physical nature.) is the 
absolute desire to become something, and the second is counter- 
action impeding the desire, transition, the cause of life and 
suffering; the third is perception, the consciousness of proper- 
ties; the fourth is fire, shine, to which the natural and torment- 
ing destruction of the foregoing has risen; the fifth is love; the 
sixth is sound, utterance and the comprehension of the relation 
between the properties; the seventh is essence, the inter- 
mediary personality, the subject of the six foregoing properties, 
their soul. . . . Everything in nature reveals itself; nature voices 
everything; self-manifestation is ia medium through which the 
object reveals its interior. To be internal talone is unbearable; 
the internal craves to be external. The whole of nature voices 
its properties and evinces itself. . . . The intense life of nature 
reveals its essence (as man's thought), while the desire (of 
man) implies a striving to realize oneself (-according to 
Boehme, to reveal oneself through nature). External nature 
is made up of six eternal properties; in the seventh property it 
rests as on the Sabbath Water and air are nearer to in- 
different unity as everything soft and free from sharpness. Sol- 
ids, on the contrary, stand higher owing to their complexities 
and their divarications which are already transcended within 
them. One can divine the cause by the visible world, by the sun, 
the stars, the elements, or the living beings, for nothing has its 
inception elsewhere, and the inception and cause are inevitable 
where the object has arisen. The true cause of everything, the 

ultimate inception is omnipresent divine spirit It is not 

far it is near; one has only to discern it," exclaims Boehme in 
exultation. " 'You dull man,' I would say to an unbeliever, 'if 
you think you have nothing of the divine in you, you are not the 
image of God; and if at odds with him, how can you be one of 
his children?' " 

From the s-ame principle of essential division Boehme strives 
to deduce the bad and -all that is evil. He (assumes the evil to 
be one of the conditions of phenomenal being. It has a common 



248 A. HER ZEN 

origin with the good; a quality is 'already evil in its limitation, 
in its egotistic divorce from unity, in its isolation at the expense 
of tall other properties. Boehme poetically (though poetry in 
this case is at the expense of grammar) derives the Latin 
qualitas from the German Qual suffering, and quellenio 
flow from a source, the quality to suffer (die Qualitdt qudlt sich 
ab)\ striving to free itself in the universal unity, it feels its 
deficiency because it is something physical, covetous, selfish. 
But this alienation is overcome by illumination and that which 
was suffering in darkness bursts into light iand enjoyment, iand 
that which was fear, torment land trepidation becomes ( a joyful 

cry, and a song, and ringing Evil is a necessary element in 

life, and it must necessarily be transcended Without the evil 
everything would be as colourless as 'a man devoid of his pas- 
sions; when self-sufficient these become evil yet they are also 
a fount of energy, a fiery impetus Kindliness which con- 
tains no evil, no egotistic element is a futile dormant sort of 
kindliness. Evil is its own enemy, the primary cause of unrest, 
constantly striving towards equilibrium, i.e., towards the trans- 
cendence of itself. 

That will be enough. If you wish to grasp the broad ideas 
which lurk behind these strange words and are scattered every- 
where in Boehme, you will find them even in the poor excerpts 
I have given. But if his words seem to you (as to many before 
you) mere ravings, I do not undertake to reassure you. 

The basic views of the Reformation did as much to foster the 
scientific development of thought as feudalism had done to hin- 
der it. The inquisitiveness of the searcher came into its own. 
Scrutinizing the debates of that time and their manner, one is 
both el-ated and saddened: one can see that thought is igiven its 
place, that it is gaining recognition, and at the same time that 
it is dry, cold, formal iand would annihilate life if life could be 
annihilated. In science the victory over the medieval outlook 
was not ias resounding as in the sphere of art. Raphael, Titian, 
and Correggio have rendered dualism in art impossible. In 
science, Catholic idealism called scholasticism w>as vanquished 
by Protestant scholasticism called idealism. As 'artistry was the 
guiding spirit of the Greek epoch, so abstract thought was the 
main feature of the Reformation that sdioliastic and extremely 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 249 

prosaic dualism. As it developed, life grew increasingly drab 
and shallow.* In the chronicles of that science we shall meet no 
morg w ith the majestic, live personalities of the sage-citizens 
of the ancient world, or with the austere, sombre faces of the 
medieval savants, or with the vigorous, fiery countenances of 
the people of the sixteenth century upheaval. Philosophers like 
other people grew older and older. Their abstract concerns 'and 
learned interests alienate them from life. After Bruno, philos- 
ophy has had only the one great biography del gran Ebreo of 
science (Spinoza).** Hegel accounts for this in a rather curious 
way. According to him, the civil order in modern times has 
reached that rational perfection in which the individuality no 
longer needs to be concerned with the external, iand everyone is 
shown his place. The external and the internal, he asserts, 
stand lalone a-nd in such a way that the external order of things 
goes on of itself and that man can, without giving thought to 
this order, establish his inner world by himself. I do not think 
this is easily proved by German history from the Westphalian 
Treaty to our day, but be that as it may, Hegel has uttered a 
perfectly German idea, which is non vitia hominis.*** 

LETTER SIX 34 

DESCARTES AND BACON 

Hier, konnen wir sagen, sind wir zu Hause und konnen wie 
der Schiffer nach langer Umherfahrt auf der ungestumen See 
"Land" rufen**** That is Hegel's homage to Descartes. "It is 

* It is strange that in Protestantism as in science the Latin nations 
appear only on the frontispiece with their Arnold of Brescia and Girolamo 
Savonarola and their Huguenots, and then, as though waiting for some- 
thing, they leave it to the Teutonic world to gather the first fruits. A.H. 

** Perhaps we should add Leibnitz and Fichte. A.H. 
*** Gesch. der Phil. Teil III, pp. 276 and 277. A lengthy biography of Hegel, 
written by Rosenkrantz and published a year ago, proves this best of all. 
It contains excerpts from his papers of great interest and of his life story, 
almost of no interest at all: a characteristic German life without events, 
with the changing of academic chairs, mil Sparbuchsen fur die Kinder, 
Geburtstagsfeiern, etc. A.H. 

**** Now we can see that we are at home; like seamen who have long 
ranged the stormy seas we can exclaim "Land!" (Gesch. der Phil. Teil III, 
p. 328 and ibid., p. 275.) 



260 A. HERZEN 

from Descartes/' he continues, "that we date true abstract 
thought; that is the source from which pure speculation, a 1 new 
science, our science, will develop." 

We, too, say "land," but in its opposite meaning. For Hegel 
thought meant sailing over to this shore as to that tranquil 
harbour situated at the entrance to its kingdom. We, on the 
contrary, see the new philosophy as the shore on which we 
stand, ready to take off with the first favourable wind, ready 
to express our thanks for the hospitality received and having 
pushed off, to make for other shores. The fate of the new philos- 
ophy is quite similar to that of all the movements of the Re- 
formation: nothing of the old has been left in peace, nor has 
anything new risen. Old bricks went into the erection of new 
buildings and consequently they are neither new nor old. All 
that has come from the Reformation has made tremendous 
strides; everything was necessary and everything stopped mid- 
way. It would have been strange if the science of this epoch of 
great beginnings had accomplished its work. Science had not 
the strength to detach itself from the other elements of its his- 
torical epoch; on the contrary, it is the conscious, developed 
thought of its time; it shares the lot of all around it. Protesting 
loudly against scholasticism it, nonetheless, absorbed scholas- 
ticism in its blood. Pure thought is the scholasticism of new 
science as pure Protestantism is regenerated Catholicism. Feu- 
dalism outlived the Reformation. It penetrated into every 
aspect of the new European life; its spirit had struck roots in 
those that marched against it; true enough, it was mod- 
ified; it is even truer, that alongside of it, there arose some- 
thing that was really new -and powerful. But this new element, 
waiting to reach its majority, remains, while still a minor, 
under the tutelage of feudalism which lives regardless of the 
Reformation of Luther or of the Reformation of the end of the 
last century. And how could it be otherwise? Who constituted its 
opponents since then? Recall premature enterprises, little-de- 
veloped generalities, chance attacks, readjustments made with- 
in its bounds. Unvarnished, open feudalism was replaced by 
a more rational, modifie'd form; a feudalism sure of itself by one 
prepared to defend itself; the feudalism of blood by that of 
money. Scholasticism suppl-ants feudalism in science. Could it, 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 251 

after that, truly be a science, a harbour? Can we expect man- 
kind to feel at home in it? No! 

The dualism of scholasticism has not been obliterated. It 
has only discarded its tattered mystico-cabbalistic attire iand 
appeared in the form of pure thought, idealism, logical abstrac- 
tions. This constitutes great progress. In this way, i.e., by ele- 
vating dua'lism into the general sphere of thought, philosophy 
has placed it on the blade's edge land thereby brought us right 
to an egress out of itself. Modern science begins where antique 
science left off, at that point to which the 'antique world had 
elevated thought. It raised the problem of the antique world 
but did not settle it; it only led up to the point of its solution 
and stopped, sensing perhaps that this solution would simul- 
taneously be its own death sentence, that is to say, that its real 
and active authority would be relegated to history. Hegel be- 
haved, perhaps, more openly than he had meant to. Perhaps the 
joyous words "harbour," "home," accidentally escaped his lips. 
By this exclamation he threw in his lot with the science of the 
Reformation. However, there is no disgrace in being found on 
the same shore with Spinoza! 

All that we have said should by no means conceal the mag- 
nitude of the revolution in thought and the progress it led to in 
science. Since Descartes science has not lost its footing. It 
stands firmly on self-cognizing thought, on the self-autonomy 
of reason. 

Antique philosophy and modern philosophy constitute two 
great cornerstones for the science of the future. Both are in- 
complete; both contain unscientific elements; both were great 
preparatory factors without which a true, complete science 
could not have developed. Both belong to the past. You re- 
member that 'antique philosophy always contained within itself 
some element of spontaneity: a fact, an event which had dropped 
on them like an aerolite and was accepted as truth by intuition, 
out of fiaith in life, in the world. That is how lancient philosophy 
accepted the very unity of existence and thought; it was right 
fundamentally but wrong in its mode of 'accepting it. That was 
faith, instinct, the feel of truth, if you like, but not conscious 
thought. Such spontaneous element is quite (antagonistic to the 
conception of science. The ideas of the Middle Ages were 'a re- 



252 A. HEBZEN 

action to spontaneity; that, however, A(A not, prevent them from 
suffering from a similar shortcoming. They cut through the 
umbilical cord which united man to nature, and man turned 
completely toward the inner world of reflection, sought in it 
alone the solution of his problems. But this spiritual world was 
purely personal; it had no object. "The reality of being," as 
Giordano Bruno said so admirably, "is conditioned by a real 
object." The object of medieval man was he himself, considered 
as an abstract entity. To deny spontaneity is just ias unscientif- 
ic as to accept it unthinkingly. The mind, concentrated with- 
in itself, occupied solely in itself, "became dry and lamentable 
scholasticism and wove out of itself a web, very delicate and 
lacy, but absolutely superfluous, 1 ' says Ba-con. Faith of man in 
intelligence led scholasticism to iacknowledge as real every 
absurdity if constructed logically, and since they were devoid 
of all content, they borrowed it from the realm of the imagina- 
tion, from psychological spontaneity, turning to it for support 
as the empiricist turns to experience. Thus, on the one hand, 
the heavy stone, and, on the other, that frightful void peopled 
with phantoms. People of the revolulionary age s-aw that scho- 
lasticism would never get them anywhere and grew to hate it; 
but the negation of scholasticism does not yet mean the insti- 
tution of modern science. The poetical perspicacity of Giordano 
Bruno has as little in common with science as the audacious 
negations of Vanini. 35 The task of prime importance, the 
problem which no thinking mind could evade, was for thought 
to establish the relation of thought itself and being, to the 
object, to truth in general. And, truly, it is with these questions 
on its lips, that a new science appeared on the scene. Its father 
was undoubtedly Descartes. Bacon's significance is different 
we shall take him up later. 

Descartes occupied himself for a long time with sciences 'as 
they were taught in his days. Then he abandoned books for 
they did not solve -a single one of his doubts and gave him no 
satisfaction whatever. He saw ias clearly as Bacon did that the 
old ship of medieval life was sinking and breaking up. He did 
not start quarrelling with its pilots as his predecessors had, but 
dived into the sea making for the other shore. And, like B-acon, 
he decided to begin at the beginning: to begin absolutely freely 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 253 

in the domain of thought. It called for a good deal of courage 
to undertake this rupture with the past and to set down to the 
erection of the new. Descartes, tormented by uncertainty and, 
perhaps, by his conscience as well, took up the pilgrim's staff 
and went to the Notre-Dame de Lorette to -supplicate for assist- 
ance in the work he had undertaken. There, prostrated before 
the altar, he prayed that his doubts be allayed. 36 The manner 
in which Descartes set about his task is his greatest merit. He 
began with absolute doubt as the real -and eternal principle of 
the development of science, not to reject all that is true but 
rather to justify it and, in justifying it, to emancipate himself. 
When he rose to those rarefied heights in which he allowed 
nothing pre-existent to enter, when, in this gloom where every- 
thing was swallowed up, but he himself, he concentrated within 
the depths of his spirit, descended into his very thought, put 
consciousness to test then it was that the famous confirmation 
of his own being escaped his lips: Cogito, ergo sum. That was 
bound logically to lead to the unity of being and thought; 
thought becomes apodictic proof of existence; consciousness rec- 
ognizes itself as indivisible with being it cannot exist with- 
out being. That is the programme of all future science; that is 
the first word of the view in which Spinoza will have the last 
word; that is the topic which Hegel will develop scientifically. 
Nosce te ipsum and Cogito, ergo sum -are the two famous 
watchwords of the old and new science. The new has followed 
the lines laid down by the old and Cogito, ergo sum is the an- 
swer to Nosce te ipsum. Thought is the real definition of my ego. 
But Descartes sp-yit all his strength on this syllogism, so 
simple in appearanfe and which is not even a syllogism. Fright- 
ened by the magnitude of his principle, by the width of the 
breach between the past and the present, he wavers and 
snatches at the tatters of the old view; the past penetrates into 
his soul. In him scholasticism, already fading, declining, regains 
strength and is transformed. He is like the Quakers who came 
to Pennsylvania and brought with them across the ocean the 
old customs which then took root in the new state. Recognizing 
only thought which he linked indissolubly with being, Des- 
cartes dissociated thought and being; he took them for two 
different entities (thought and extent). Herein lies your dual- 



254 A. HER ZEN 

ism, scholasticism elevated to a logical form. Ill at ease, he 
turns to formal logic. According to him, rational proof (by 
means of thought) has an absolute right to reality, to truth; 
while truth must be proven not by thought alone but by thought 
and being. Erdmann,* a conscientious German scholar, quite 
justly remarked that Descartes could not have avoided that line 
of development, living at the time he did. His task wa-s to raise 
the banner of Protestantism in science and proclaim a new 
path; to proclaim thought as the all-exhaustive definition of 
man. That was a feat great enough for [any one individual 
to accomplish! Descartes was too perspicacious not to 
realize that in his system thought and being were completely 
dissociated and there was nothing to bridge the two; that these 
constituted two indifferent, self-sufficient things. He always 
realized that so long as they remained entities nothing could 
be done, for entity was entity precisely because it was sufficient 
unto itself. Descartes accepted (though he did not deduce) the 
supreme unity linking the opposite moments; thought and 
extent constitute the attributes, the different manifestations of 
the supreme being. How did he arrive at this unity? Through 
innate ideas. So his protest against any content was not, after 
all, profound! In accepting innate ideas, an element of 
psychological spontaneity, insubordinate to logic, forced its 
way into his doctrine. Thus Descartes became at one and the 
same time the greatest and last bulwark of scholasticism; in 
him scholasticism was transformed into idealism, transcen- 
dental dualism which it was more difficult to discard than Cath- 
olic scholasticism. We shall see how the^scholastic element 
retained its vitality all throughout the epocff of modern philos- 
ophy down to our times. The science of Protestantism could not 
be anything else. If there were different demands and differ- 
ent, more valid, sympathies, they were not of science. Begin- 
ning with Descartes, science elaborated a method, paved a way 
which was to lead to an egress out of itself and which it could 
not take, for it had nothing to convey over it. 

Descartes, with a mind as purely mathematical and abstract 
as his was, examined nature exclusively from a mechanical 

* Erdmann, Versuch einer Geschichte der neueren Philosophie, 1840-42. 
1. Th. Descartes. A//. 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 256 

point of view. There was something austere and ascetic labout 
him that kept him from understanding what was alive: His 
rigid, igeometrical dialectics was inexorable; he was tan idealist 
by the very cast of his mind. He conceived being, nratter, ias 
extension. "All other attributes," he says, "can be abstracted 
from matter, all but extent; that alone is inherent to it." Quality 
ceded its place to a more external definition of the object 
quantity. Mathematics found 'all doors opened up to them in 
the matural sciences; everything was made subordinate to me- 
chanical laws and the universe became an apparatus of extent 
in motion.* We must note, however, that ;at the beginning of 
the seventeenth century scientific thought was, indeed, for the 
most part, completely taken up with astronomy and mechanics. 
That wias the time of great inventions in both fields. This me- 
chanical view, which began with Galileo and reached its zenith 
in Newton, contributed almost nothing to the concrete branches 
of natural science; its influence was felt (except for lastronomy 
and mechanics, of course) only in physics. The Cartesian view 
of nature which, (according to the law of compensation, was so 
idealistically spiritual that it lapsed into the crudest mecha- 
nism and materialism (as was then noted particularly by 
English and Italian physicists), had practically no influence on 
natural science. 

"A close examination," said Descartes, "shows us that the 
substance of things and bodies consists only in their having 
extent in length, width -and depth. Perhaps bodies 'are not what 
they seem to us; perhaps they deceive our senses; but undoubt- 
edly that is true in them which I understand clearly, distinctly 
and can deduce mentally; that is why I avow that I recognize 
no substance of material things other than their geometric di- 
mension, divisible in all ways, mobile and capable of having a 
form and that I consider in matter only divisibility, contour 
and mobility. Everything physical is explained and deduced 
with the greatest precision from those mathematical l<aws which 
determine the inalienable (attributes of being. It is my opinion 
that physics needs no other foundation/' Matter, taken aparl 
from its qualities, as conceived by Descartes, ha's no intrinsic 



I shall go into this question in greater detail in the next letter. A.H. 



A. HERZEN 



power; it is a virtual void, something dead and inert he always 
has to resort to external forces. "There is but one substance in 
the universe; iall its various forms originate in movement. 
Movement is nothing but the action as a result of which sub- 
stance passes from one place to another; it is the displacement 
of certain parts of the body in respect to those relatively near. 
Movement and repose are different states of matter; movement 
requires no more effort than does repose. As much effort is re- 
quired to set a body into motion as to stop it. Effort is required 
to remain in a state of repose. The transposition of a body is a 
twofold action. Both bodies are active: one remains in its place, 
the other is removed (the force of inertia). Movement depends 
on that which is moved and not on that which moves; it is 
impossible to impart movement to one body without violating 
the equilibrium of other bodies; hence the existence of whole 
systems of movement and their complexity. The cause of move- 
ment is God." Then come the general mechanical foundations 
of dynamics. All that exists is composed of corpuscles and their 
modification in magnitude, place, combination and transposi- 
tion. Organic life is exclusively growth, i.e., it is agglomeration 
by the acquisition of other corpuscles. Descartes set physicists 
a dangerous example when he had recourse to personal hy- 
potheses wherever understanding proved insufficient. Thus, for 
example, the movement of heavenly bodies, according to him, 
was due to a 1 tornado twirling them around the sun. In his 
attempt to deduce mathematically all phenomena of the life of 
planets, he arrives at a hypothesis which he himself is not cer- 
tain of (quamvis ipsa nunquam sic orta esse)* Admitting that 
body was absolutely alien to spirit, Descartes never could 
attain an understanding of life; his researches into physiology 
began with the premise that the body "had, supposedly, no 
spirit." But then what is this living body? Who gave him the 
right to consider it in this fashion? This makes it quite natural 
for him to consider the body as a statue or a machine made of 
earth. "If clocks can go, why should it be difficult to understand 
that man, made <as he is, can also move?" After such an artifi- 



* Though, perhaps, such phrases are official reservations such as those 
used by Copernicus and even Newton. 37 A.M. 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 267 

dial -and disheartening anatomical iand physiological [analysis, 
Descartes must, probably, himself have realized that not every- 
thing in the body of ian animal can be explained mechanically, 
and diligently took up the study of zootomy. However, like all 
systematizers, he was deaf to the voice of truth and twisted 
facts as he pleased. For example, he explained the whine of a 
dog as & simple reaction of this machine to the action of the 
stick. If a machine, he says, was built internally land -externally 
like a monkey or any other animal it would then be impossible 
to differentiate between them. Mian alone is not a machine be- 
cause he has a tongue, ia mind, ;a soul. While the reasoning soul 
is closely connected with the body, it is arbitrarily connected, 
because the soul is absolutely the opposite of the body. 
Although the soul is, at bottom, connected with the body as a 
whole, its main habitat is, however, in the brain, or, to be more 
exact, in one little gland (Glandula Conarion), situated in the 
centre of the cerebrum (incidentally, because the other parts 
of the brain are p-aired: consequently, the indivisible soul couJcl 
not be lodged in one of them without its taking ascendency 
over the other). Could this futile question have arisen if Des- 
cartes had had the slightest understanding of the life of the 
organism? He considered the organs of the animal to be exclu- 
sively a 1 mechanism brought into motion by some incompre- 
hensible power. Movement is impossible if matter is only a 
niute, inactive, passive occupancy of space. That is absolutely 
untrue: matter has an inherent repugnance to stupid, meaning- 
less, passive repose; it itself, so to say, ferments,* and this 
fermenting, developing from form to form, negates its own 
extent, seeks to free itself and does so, ultimately, in con- 
sciousness, while retaining its being. The conception of matter 
is not exhausted by extension; that extension which is not 
active, not moved by the effect of its own action is as much of 



* Contemporaries of Descartes perceived the .inertness of his matter. 
Henry More wrote him a letter in which he called matter obscure life, 
mater iam utique vitam esse quandam obscuram, nee in sola extensione 
partium consistere, sed in aliqua semper actione. "/?. Des. Epist" 1, Ep. 4. 
XX. A.H. "Matter is obscure life and consists not only in the extension 
of parts but also in some kind of continual activity." R. Descartes. Letters, 
1, Letter 4, XX. Ed. 

171157 



258 A. HER ZEN 

an abstraction ias thought without body. These two are op- 
posites, the extremes of life. 

Descartes had one magnificent vocation to give science its 
start and a principle. He could hold the pressure of scholasti- 
cism and dualism in check only long enough to formulate the 
principle. No sooner had he uttered his Cogito, ergo sum than 
the dike gave way. He began by protesting against medieval 
science but it wias already in his veins he lent it his fullest 
support. He justified it scientifically. But not all the intellectual 
demands of that time ^ere expressed in pure scientific terms. 
This can be seen very clearly in Boehme. In France, for 
example, long before Descartes's time, there was a particular, 
practical, philosophical view of things. It wias not scientifically 
grounded, had no expressed theories, was not subordinated to 
any abstract doctrine, to any single (authority. It was a free 
conception, based on life, on reflection and on the report of past 
events; in part it was acquired by a long, active study of an- 
tique writers. This view had ia simple and direct attitude to life 
and drew its material and counsel from it. It gave the impres- 
sion of superficiality because it was simple and humane. 38 Ger- 
man historians speak of it disdainfully, with Vornehmtuerei, 
perhaps, because this view gives, in a single formula, tall that is 
intangible in life; because it expressed itself plainly and often 
treated of day-to-day questions. Montaigne's views had, 
however, tremendous importance. They were subsequently de- 
veloped further in Voltaire and the Encyclopaedists. Mon- 
taigne was, in some respects, the precursor of Bacon who was 
the genius of this conception. 

The contrast between Bacon and Descartes is sharp. Des- 
cartes had a method but no real content save for the formal 
capacity to think. Bacon had empirical content in crudo, but 
science was missing, i.e., he had not completely lassimilated 
it precisely because the time had not yet come for content to 
be so comprehended by thought as to be able to develop it 
scientifically. Descartes voiced a protest in the name of 
theory, in the name of pure thought; Bacon did so in the 
name of that recalcitrant element of life which regards, smil- 
ingly, all one-sidedness iand pursues his own path. The result 
of medieval life, of this world of malicious exclusivism and 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 269 

violent dissolutions, must be two-sided, two-headed. Each 
side, arising out of a one-sided definition of the idea wias far 
from understanding that both definitions were equally essen- 
tial for truth. Each issued from its own principles: Descartes's 
principle was abstract thought. He wanted an a priori science; 
Bacon's principle was drawn from experience. For him the 
only truth is that which is obtained a posteriori. Descartes 
wanted to settle the question of thought and being ab- 
stractly, transcendentally, logically. Bacon sought for a so- 
lution in the living fields of experience and observation. For 
both of them thought was completely freed at the beginning; 
but the former could not tear himself away from abstractions, 
while the latter from nature. Descartes based everything on 
syllogism, after having .'adopted a principle that was not a 
syllogism. Bacon rejected syllogisms. He recognized only in- 
duction, as if induction was not a syllogism. One annihilat- 
ed everything but thought, rejected everything and undertook 
to found a science exclusively on his faith in thought. The 
other took as his point of departure the certainty lent by the 
perception of the senses, by faith in facts, by confidence in 
the great medium between nature and intellectual speculation, 
i.e., in observation. One lost both the earth and the heavens 
at the very start; the other stood with both legs firmly plant- 
ed on the earth; he grasped hold of natural phenomena and 
by the exterior, moving along the crust of things, reached 
great, universal ideas. One wished to subordinate physics to 
mathematics; the other called mathematics the maidservant 
of physics. One regarded matter only -as ia quantitative defini- 
tion and held that substance could be [abstracted from quality; 
the other was occupied solely with the qualitative definition of 
the object although he was aware of the position of the quan- 
titative definition. Both, finally, united in their hatred for 
scholasticism, did not understand and inveighed lagainst 
Aristotle and all the ancients. They made their contempora- 
ries, whose minds were riveted to the past, look ahead; scho- 
lasticism receded into the past; Biacon spoke of progress and 
the future. Both had their blind spots. 

It is difficult, however, to accuse Bacon of being one-sided. 
He wanted, as he himself said, to -have an active, vital science 
17* 



A. HERZEN 



a science about nature and based on nature. He wanted 
,a science in which facts would be transformed by observation 
and ana-lysis into general ideas. Consequently, he examined 
everything directly tand clearly in order to learn, to -analyze, but 
not with the intention of being ensnared by systematism and then 
of tightening the knot. He very frequently began with ia simple 
idea land arrived at very complex results. He was extremely 
conscientious and did not turn the question of science into 
something personal; he recognized the objectivity of truth; his 
erudition was enormous his memory took the upper hand; he 
was acquainted with all past historical development. His an- 
tipathy for Greek science -and Aristotle did not prevent him 
from referring to them in a masterly manner and using them. 
He was far from being a poet but his interpretation of Greek 
myths is excellent. What a' curious sens-ation you experience 
when, on reading or turning over the leaves of medieval 
scholastics, of the philosophers of theoretical emancipation,** 
you suddenly come lacross Bacon. Do you remember, for in- 
stance, how in the days of your youthful dreams when theory 
followed upon the heel of theory, when faith in oneself and 
one's friends was infinite, when one dreamt of transforming 
science and the world and when enthusiastic speeches sup- 
ported poetical fancies unexpectedly, the practical man ap- 
peared on the scene with a genuine knowledge of life, one 
who knew that you couldn't get far on abstractions, that revo- 
lutions in science 'and history were not so easily made? Do 
you remember the extraordinary impression made by his ap- 
pearance? Do you remember how, at first, frightened by his 
sceptical and cold ideas, you rejected them? But 1-ater you 
began to blush for your dreams, succumbed to the newcomer, 
drank in every word of his, revealed your most cherished be- 
liefs in exchange for his sober view of things based on reality 
and, according to you, infallible? This practical newcomer 
was Bacon. What probably ialso happened to you was that, as 
you gradually found yourself more in accord with the new 
views and examined them more closely, your own dreams 
again rose before you. They were, of course, only dreams, but 
some of them were so far-flung that you hadn't the heart to 
barter them for practical wisdom. All this is repeated when 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 2til 

one passes from the energetic reformers to the dispassionate 
Bacon. Here you have not the restless and passionate nature 
of Giordano, nor the violent Cardan; 40 he is not one of the 
wanderers impelled onward by thought, one of those home- 
less vagrants bearing within himself, lalong the highways of 
Europe, nascent consciousness and intellectual activity. Nor 
is he one of those persecuted toilers who frequently drop out 
on the wiay from their internal discord and external sufferings. 
No: you have before you the writings of a man of balance, a* 
chancellor 'accustomed to handle state matters, a peer left with- 
out an occupation because he has been crossed off the list of 
peers. ... In the soul of this man everything had been con- 
sumed by the searing flame of amour-propre, ambition, power, 
honours, wealth, failure, prison and humiliation; but the in- 
tellect of ia genius remained his ( and, too, his imagination so 
cool and subordinated to the mind that it boldly called upon 
him to discard the luxurious flowers of poetical speech on the 
royal path of his vast and clear-cut ideas. 

What strikes us as we pick up the works of Bacon is his 
extraordinary intelligence, his good sense, keen practicality 
and his amazing versatility. Bacon cultivated his mind by par- 
ticipating in public life. He learned to think by his contacts 
with people. Descartes avoided people, at first in the suburbs 
of Paris, then in Holland. People interfered with his work. 
That is why Descartes introduces you to pure thought while 
Bacon introduces you to the physical sciences. Descartes's ideal- 
ism was based on dualism. Bacon's ideas contained some- 
thing daemonic which scholasticism could not tolerate even 
for a single hour. Bacon began with the same premises as 
Descartes, with the negation of the existing, ready dogmas, 
but for him this negation was not a logical manoeuvre, but 
a practical rectification. Bacon's negation, after freeing man 
from scholasticism, placed .him face to face with nature; he 
recognized its laws from the very outset; even more, he want- 
ed to subdue his self-willed thought, corrupted by arrogant 
scholasticism to its evident objectivity. (Descartes, quite the 
reverse, placed nature hors la lot by his a priori.) Bacon 
modestly suggested that empiricism was the elementary stage 
of knowledge, the means for arriving, through phenomena, 



26L> A. HER ZEN 

through facts, at that all-pervading substance from which Des- 
partes attempted to deduce phenomena. They worked hand 
in hand, and if neither they nor their followers met, that is 
not because of an innate irreconcilability, but because neither 
idealism nor empiricism had developed far enough to become 
a genuine method, nor to include genuine content. Leibnitz 
calls Cartesianisrn "the vestibule of truth"; we have every 
right to call Bacon's empiricism its storehouse.. 

We shall take up the merits and defects of this storehouse 
in the next letter.* 

Sokolovo, June 1845 

LETTER SEVEN 

BACON AND HIS SCHOOL IN ENGLAND 

BACON'S fundamental idea strikes us as being so simple that 
it is difficult, iat first glance, to realize its full significance. 
More than once have we had occasion to remark that the fur- 
ther science penetrates into reality, the simpler are the truths 
which it discovers. They seem to evolve by themselves. Their 
simplicity, like the simplicity of works of nature, can be grasped 
either by the unsophisticated, direct understanding of a 
person who has always been one with nature, or by the vigor- 
ous mind which, by dint of hard work, has rid itself of pre- 
conceived conceptions, of preliminary half-truths. Mankind ar- 
rives at simple truths as a result of the strenuous efforts of 
great geniuses in the course of thousands of years. Oversubtle 
truths have always existed. To be 'able again to understand 
simple truths, one must undergo the entire phenomenological 
process and again come to be on natural terms with the object. 
The practical, everyday truth seems paltry. Things that we 
observe intimately and frequently, do not seem worthy of at- 



* Bacon should be read in the original. All throughout his works you 
unexpectedly meet ideas of extraordinary veracity and breadth. To prove 
this and to let you become more closely acquainted with Bacon I shall 
quote several passages from his works; he will express his own views far 
better than I can. A.M. 



LETTEnS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 263 

tention. To see their immensity we must have distance; it n'y 
a pas de grand homme pour son valet de chambre. The less 
a man knows the greater is his contempt for the ordinary things 
which surround him. Take up the history of any science it 
invariably begins not with observations made, but with magic, 
with distorted and misunderstood facts, expressed in hieroglyphs, 
and ends by disclosing the essence of these mysteries, of these 
sage truths, truths so elementary, familiar and ordinary that 
no one even wanted, at first, to consider them. In our day we 
have not yet completely rid ourselves of that prejudice which 
makes us expect in the truths of science something extraordi- 
nary, inaccessible to the crotvd, something detached from the 
miserable vale of tears in which we live. In Bacon's day every- 
body held this opinion, but he courageously rose against it. 
Dualism, exhausted in the previous epoch, lapsed, in the Prot- 
estant world, into a sort of melancholy and helpless madness. 
Bacon demonstrated the futility of fetishes iand idols with which 
the science of his days was replete and demanded that people 
reject them and return to a view of nature, childlike in its 
simplicity. It was not easy for minds, deformed by scholasti- 
cism, to return to a natural understanding of things. The con- 
fined, suppressed minds of medieval thinkers harboured, under 
their humble hairshirt of formalism, a madly -arrogant claim 
to power. What attracted them was net the sacred right of 
reason, nor the power of thought, inseparable from it. No, their 
aim was to bring natural phenomena under the heel of their 
despotic caprices, to overthrow arbitrarily the laws of nature. 
Recluses, bookworms, people living in the abstract, they neither 
knew nature nor life; both nature and life frightened them by 
their mystery, their power, their allurements. They .seem to have 
held both nature and life in contempt, but that was one of the 
numberless falsehoods of those days. They understood that it 
would not be easy to dominate nature 'and, with the infinite 
ambition of the shackled captive, attempted to make it subject 
to their spirit. The noble striving to attain knowledge became, 
in them, an impure lust for power just as the gentle feeling 
of love was transformed, in the heart of Claude Frollo, into a 
venomous vice. Take a look at the alchemist at his furnace, 
surrounded by magic signs ;and terrifying apparatus! Why 



264 A. HERZEN 

those pale cheeks, that feverish air, that panting breath? Be- 
cause the man is filled not with 'a chaste love for truth but 
with the lust for torture, for doing violence; because he is en- 
gaged in making gold or homunculus in the retort. The ob- 
jectivity of the object signified nothing to the haughty egotism 
of the Middle Ages. It was in himself, in his concentrated 
thought, in his overwrought imagination that man found his 
whole object, nature, events being called in as servants to help 
when the need arose and then be dismissed. The Reformation 
could not swerve men away from this path; it drove their minds 
still deeper into the realm of the abstract; it lent Catholic sci- 
ence, at times passionate land energetic, ian iair of cold and 
lifeless circumspection. What Protestantism cultivated was not 
the heart, but its languorous and tearful Gemiit. The most ec- 
centric, most deformed kinds of mysticism spread quickly in 
Sweden, England and Germany side by side with the purely 
formal theological trends of Puritanism land Presbyterianism, 
.samples of which you can see in Woodstock and in the Old 
Mortality. 

Amidst all these movements there arose ia man who said 
to his contemporaries: "Look down. Look well at nature from 
which you would flee. Descend from the tower you have climbed 
and from which you can see nothing. Approach the world 
of phenomena and study them. You cannot escape from na- 
ture in any event: it lies on all sides and your imaginary power 
over it is self-deception. Nature may be subjugated by its own 
weapons, but you do not possess them. So, discipline your 
mind which has been spoilt by facile land futile logic-making 
to the point when it would admit the indubitable existence of 
the environment, when it would submit to the omnipresent 
influence of nature and filled with love and respect, commence 
forthwith your conscientious labours." Many of those whom 
these words reached stopped their futile ranging through the 
verbal quagmire of scholasticism and indeed set down to work 
selflessly. At Bacon's initiative work was begun in the physi- 
cal sciences which subsequently resulted in Newton, Linnae- 
us, Buffon, Cuvier Others listened indignantly to the 

strange speech of Baron Verulam, so indignantly, indeed, that 
two hundred years later Count de Maistre judged it still nee- 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 265 

essary to annihilate Bacon and to give evidence of that hatred 
which the loving hearts of the obscurantists still harboured 
for him. But what is the basic idea cf Bacon's doctrine? 

Before Bacon, science commenced with generalities, but 
where these generalities originated no one could tell. Scho- 
lasticism believed that Caius is mortal because man is mor- 
tal. Now, Bacon argued that, on the contrary, we are justified 
in saying that ma-n is mortal because Caius is. That was no 
mere change in the order of words. Phenomena, empirical phe- 
nomena, were granted the right of the first premises, logical 
anterior itatis. Herein lies the principal method used by Bacon: 
he starts from the particular, from experiment, from the obser- 
vation of phenomena and arrives at a generalization, at a col- 
lation of all that has been thus acquired. For Biacon experience 
is not a passive perception of the external world with its 
attending circumstances. Quite the contrary, it is the conscious- 
interaction of thought and things external, their joint ac- 
tivity, which, while developing, Bacon keeps in curb, .neither 
allowing thought to irake conclusions to which it is' not yet 
entitled, nor allowing experience to remain a mechanical 
accumulation of facts "undigested by thought/' The .greater 
and richer the sum total of observations, the more inalienable 
Js the right to deduce from them the general rules by means 
of induction. But as he discovers them Bacon, ever doubting 
and cautious, demands another plunge into the stream of phe- 
nomena, in search of a generalization or a qualification. 

Before Bacon, experiment was an accident, it was used 'as 
a basis even more rarely than was tradition, let alone intel- 
lectual speculation. Bacon turned it into an essential, primary 
fa-ctor of knowledge, which subsequently laccomp-anied the en- 
tire development of knowledge, which presupposed constant 
verification, and, by its irrefutable precision and its concrete 
universality, acted as a curb on the inclination of abstract 
minds to rise into the rarefied atmosphere of metaphysical 
genera-lilies. Bacon believed as much 'in the mind as in nature 
but his confidence was greatest when they were at one be- 
cause he foresaw their unity. He demanded that the mind, 
leaning on experience, -should progress hand in hand with nature, 
that nature should guide the mind as its pupil until it was in ia 



266 A. HER ZEN 

condition to lead nature towards complete elucidation in 
thought. 

That was new, extremely new and grand; that was the re- 
surrection of real science, instauratio magna. Bacon had 
every right to give this title to his book which marked the 
commencement of the great renaissance of science. Although 
he says that "to say truth, I am wont for my part to regard 
this work as a child of time rather than of wit, 11 still let us 
give honour land glory to the first one who incarnated the 
spirit of the times and was its medium; he merits that honour 
and glory doubly since he realized that he was only an in- 
strument of the spirit of the times and not an individual seek- 
ing to crush his contemporaries! This modesty did not prevent 
Bacon, however, from being aware of his strength. When he 
began writing his book all branches of science were in a most 
lamentable state. Bacon fearlessly summoned before his court 
of judgement contemporary knowledge in its Gothic 
raiments, and condemned it. I remember someone compar- 
ing him with a general reviewing his iarmy. Yes, that is a very 
apt comparison. He was the collected chief inspecting his 
regiments before battle. All branches of human knowledge 
marched past him and he inspected each one, pointing out its 
defects to some, giving counsel to others, and doing it with 
that straightforwardness which is characteristic of genius 
because he knows he can accomplish what he has under- 
taken. Don't imagine that Bacon limited himself only to a 
general outline of experiment and induction. He developed his 
method to the minutest details ;and he instructed by means of 
examples; he commented, explained, repeated his words so a ( s 
to attain clarity ;and every step leaves you amazed at the rich 
resources of his mind, at his erudition, formidable by the 
standards of those days, and by his complete antithesis to the 
medieval manner. Even in his light tone, in the smile which 
occasionally breaks through the most serious material, you 
can identify something familiar to us, unstilted, without the 
cap and gown, without the affected solemnity of the scholas- 
tics. 

Bacon's method is nothing other than a personal (subjec- 
tive) and external means of understanding an object. He him- 



, LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 267 

self once expressed both the profoundly practical nature of his 
method and its subjectivity in the following words: "But the 
course I propose for the discovery of sciences is such as leaves 
but little to the acuteness and strength of wits, but places 
iall wits and understandings nearly on ia level. For as in the 
drawing of a straight line or a perfect circle, much depends 
on the steadiness and practice of the hand, if it be done by 
aim of hand only, but if with the aid of rule or compass, little 
or nothing, so is it exactly with my plan/' From the point of 
view of logic, this profoundly human view is, of course, unjus- 
tified but his method, nonetheless, is historically of tremen- 
dous objective significance. But then it has, incidentally, as 
realism in general, more philosophical significance than is ex- 
pressed by words. Bacon, by his method, riveted science to 
nature so that philosophy and natural science had either to 
halt together or else iadvance together. This was the practical 
recognition of the unity of thought and being. The empiricism 
of Bacon is pervaded and (animated by thought, which was 
least of all appreciated in him. It was not the narrowness of 
his views that led him to rely on -experiments alone but his 
view of them at the beginning, the first step which could not 
be lavoided. For him experience is the means of discovering 
"the -eternal and immutable forms of nature," but form, ac- 
cording to him, is the general, the genus, the idea, only not 
the abstract idea, but fons emanationis, natura naturans, a 
creative element of life which fulfils itself through its partic- 
ular definitions of the object, as a source from which its dis- 
tinctions, its attributes, emanate, la source inseparable from 
the thing itself. Bacon's subjective empiricism lies rather in 
his words, in {he maladroitness of his language, in his anta- 
gonistic fear lest it bring him closer to scholasticism. But we 
must not forget that such a man could not only exhaust all 
the possibilities of his method but also far exceed what could 
be deduced strictly from his method. Descartes is far supe- 
rior to Bacon in method and greatly inferior to him in the 
results attained because Descartes is a rman of abstractions. 
Of course, Bacon has his share of one-sidedness which infect- 
ed a large part of his followers, but he himself wias far removed 
from crude empiricism. Here are his own words: "There 



268 A. HER ZEN 

remains simple experience; which, if -taken ias it comes, is 
called (accident; if sought for, experiment. But this kind of 
experience is no better than a broom without its band, as the 
saying is; -a mere groping, as of men in the dark, that feel 
all round them for the chance of finding their way; when they 
had much better wait for daylight, or light a candle, and then 
go. But the true method of experience on the contrary first 
lights the candle, and then by means of the candle shows the 
way. 1 '. . . "For hitherto men have used great and indeed over- 
curious diligence in observing the variety of things, and ex- 
plaining the exact specific difference of animals, herbs, 'and fos- 
sils; most of which are rather sports of nature than of any 
serious use towards science. Such things indeed serve to de- 
light, 'and sometimes even give help in practice; but for get- 
ting insight into nature they are of little service or none. 
Men's 1'abour therefore should be turned to the investigation 
and observation of the resemblances and analogies of things, 
as well in wholes as in parts. For these it is that detect the 
unity of mature, and lay a foundation for the constitution of 
sciences/ 1 

". . . Some minds are stronger and apter to mark the differ- 
ences of things, others to mark their resemblances. The steady 
and acute mind can fix its contemplations and dwell and 
fasten on the subtlest distinctions: the lofty and discursive 
mind recognizes and puts together the finest and most gen- 
eral resemblances. Both kinds however easily err in excess, by 
catching the one at gradations the other at shadows." 
. "Hence it is that men cease not from abstracting nature till 
they come to potential iand uninformed matter, nor on the 

other hand from dissecting nature till they reach the atom " 

Neither the atom nor uninformed matter are true, but true are 
bodies as they exist in nature. "Contemplations of nature and 
of bodies in their simple form break up iand distract the under- 
standing, while contemplations of nature and bodies in their 
composition and configuration overpower and dissolve the 
understanding These kinds of contemplation should there- 
fore be alternated and taken by turns; that so the understand- 
ing may be rendered at once penetrating and comprehensive, 
and the inconveniences above mentioned, with the idols which 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 269 

proceed from them, may be avoided. 11 Aware of this, B-acon 
concentrated, however, all his intellect on experiments, on in- 
vestigations and observations because he regarded experi- 
ment as the foundation of science, because he clearly saw the 
ruinous influence of the abuse of syllogistics and the unsound- 
ness of metaphysics when the factual information is insuf- 
ficient. He understood perfectly well that the collection and 
collation of experiments a'lone did not yet constitute science 
but he also understood that there could be no science without 
factual information. "Another error," says Bacon, "of ia diverse 
nature from all the former, is the over-early -and peremptory 
reduction of knowledge into arts and methods; from which 
time commonly sciences receive small or no augmentation. 
But as young men, when they knit and shape perfectly, do 
seldom grow to a farther stature: so knowledge, while it 
is in aphorisms and observations, it is in growth; but when 
it once is comprehended in exact methods, it may perchance 
be farther polished and illustrated, 'and accommodated for use 
and practice; but it increaseth no more in bulk and substance." 
He did not aim to achieve a self-confined whole before 
first completing the contents; he preferred hard work to unripe 
fruit. Biacon's method is extremely modest: it is filled with re- 
spect for the object; it studies it in order to learn from it and 
not in order to wrest from the object a justification of some 
preconceived idea; it endeavours to bring everything to the 
notice of consciousness. "For whatever deserves to exist," says 

Bacon, "deserves lalso to be known " He was able to find 

the real and the true even where we usually only see vain 
illusions.* 

Bacon's positive and essentially English genius had no 
turn for scholastic metaphysics. The philosophy of his days did 
not interest him at all. Like Descartes, he began with nega- 
tion, but with practical negation. He rejected the old dogmas 
because they were untenable. He revolted against the author- 
ity of the old doctrines because they hampered the indepen- 
dence of the mind. "As for antiquity," he says, "the opinion 



* For example, not only gymnastics, but cosmetics and even the theory 
of luxury found a place in his Novum Organum.A.H. 



270 A. HER ZEN 

touching it which men entertain is quite a negligent one and 
scarcely consonant with the word itself. For the old age of 
the world is to be accounted the true iantiquity; iand this is 
the attribute of our own times, not of that earlier age of the 
world in which the ancients lived; and which, though in re- 
spect of us it was the older, yet in respect of the world it was 
the younger. And truly as we look for greater knowledge of 
human things and a riper judgement in the old man tha'n in 
the young, because of his experience 'and of the number and 
variety of the things which he has seen and heard and thought 
of." In undermining the authority of the past B-acon pointed 
to the future. It wias in the future that people were to uncov- 
er the truth, at the cost of their efforts. He argued that truth 
could not -be found by turning back, ias the scholastics advised; 
that truth was something to be sought for and not some- 
thing lost. For him, negation of authority was inseparably 
linked up with faith in progress. Having rejected sterile dog- 
mas, he found himself face to face with nature, which he di- 
rectly set down to study, to investigate as an indubitable fact. 
It never even occurred to him to deny nature which, for him, 
would have been equivalent to denying his own body. To in- 
dulge in such negation for a person like Bacon would have 
meant to commit an obvious folly, to sink into an oppressive 
darkness. Bacon knew, for example, that the senses were 
deceptive, but such knowledge led him to the practical truth 
that experiments must be multiplied and verified by a large 
number of persons acting as a control on each other. 

Bacon's faith in mind and in nature is unshakable. He 
speaks with equal repugnance of scepticism and of meta- 
physics. He is perfectly consistent in this: what he requires is 
knowledge, information and not grievous complaints on the 
impotence of mind iand the intangibility of truth. What he re- 
quires is active development, truth and its practical applica- 
tion. That philosophy which does not lead to action, accord- 
ing to him, is worth nothing. For him knowledge and action 
are two aspects of one and the same energy. A man of this 
cast of mind is least of all capable of romanticism, mysticism 
and scholasticism. 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 271 

As you now see, Bacon land Descartes represented in sci- 
ence two opposite principles of medieval life. The contradic- 
tions of -dualism were most distinctly and sharply revealed in 
them and through them. The followers of Descartes and Bacon 
pushed both trends, idealism and empiricism, to such extremes 
that in their formal contradictions they of dialectical necessity 
overlapped each other and one side, confined with its exclu- 
sive conception, obtained a hearing 'through its adversary. You 
remember that at the birth of its activity, at the beginning 
of the sixteenth century, human thought was by no means so 
exclusive; that, on the contrary, it cancelled the dualism of 
the scholastic conception by its exalted prescience. Such was 
the view held by Giordano Bruno and his adepts. The whole 
of nature, of the universe seemed to them one universal life, 
everything being animated by it: a blade of grass and a plan- 
et, m-an and a corpse equally constituted a receptacle for it, 
and it all, while existing freely and repeating itself -in the 
diversity of the concrete world, continually tended to unity 
in conscious thought. But neither was there in science the 
strength to develop this view, nor the ability in the medieval 
mind to turn from its romantic, sombre reveries to such a 
lucid understanding. That was a prophetic sign, the goal of 
future scientific development, shown >at the beginning of the 
movement; it could not yet maintain itself tat such heights. 
History offers many such examples: at the very outset of the 
new tendency its essential idea manifests itself in all its glory 
but in a form of an inapplicable generality. In a short time, 
the men of action realize this to their horror and despair; 
the bright idea is tarnished by circumstances, is lost, 
ruined, and what contemporaries cannot grasp is the fact 
that what has perished is the seed, which will arise sub- 
sequently victorious 'and triumphant, after having first expe- 
rienced all the contradictions and having larmed itself with 
all that the environment could provide. Neither Bacon nor 
Descartes co-uld halt iat prescience as did Bruno. They >aimed 
further and did more, but Bruno's basic idea was superior to 
theirs. Bacon was not opposed to the science of people of pre- 
science\ he himself, &s we have already said, was full of intui- 
tive ideas; but being an Englishman, a miam of business, he 



272 A. HERZEN 

wanted to simplify the question, to .make it ias positive as pos- 
sible. , 

For the sake of a thorough examination of one aspect, the 
empirical one, he intentionally ignored some others. His fol- 
lowers proved that they asked nothing more than to be allowed 
to remain in this one-sidedness. What was lacking was only 
a doctrine diametrically opposed to Bacon's for the old ques- 
tion of dualism to quicken into ia new struggle and for once 
rejected life, practical interests, physical events to line up on 
one side, with reason as essence, as thought and self-conscious- 
ness contemptuous of being and confident of its principles 
on the other. This trend appeared, as you know, in Descartes. 
The unity of thought and life which manifested itself with 
tall the grace of youth in Bruno was lagain ruptured. Dualism 
found a new language but it was a language which invariably 
led to the extreme of both idealism 'and materialism and, at 
the same time, to a way out of all dualism. The question of 
dualism was solved neither in life, nor by the Guelphs and the 
Ghibellines but in the theoretic sphere of abstract thought. 
That w-as something medieval thought was bound to come 
to otherwise it would not have been true to its historical 
origin. 

In the antique world thought bad never been entirely con- 
scious of its opposition to being; in modern science it engaged 
in ia bitter civil war: such conflict could not but leave its mark. 
We shall put it simply which will be by no means an exag- 
geration: idealism strove to -annihilate material being; to con- 
sider it as something dead, as an illusion, a lie, a void, for, truly, 
to be some accidental manifestation of essence does not amount 
to very much. Idealism saw and recognized only what was 
universal, generic; the essence, the human mind, del-ached 
from all that was human. Materialism, equally exclusive, en- 
deavoured openly to -annihilate all that was immaterial, denied 
the general, considered thought to be >a secretion of the brain 
and experience the sole source of knowledge. It recognized 
truth only in particularities, in things perceptible iand visible. 
Materialism recognized the thinking man, but not reason nor 
mankind. In brief, these two views were diametrically opposed 
in everything, as is the right and the left hand, tand it never 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 273 

occurred to anyone that both the right and the left belonged 
to the same 'breast and were equally indispensable if the organ- 
ism was to be complete. Both sides made astounding logical 
mistakes. Neither one of them could develop their prin- 
ciples at all without borrowing something from those of 
the adversary and, for the most part, did something differ- 
ent from what they intended. Idealism started off a priori; 
it rejected experience and meant to begin with cogito, ergo 
sum\ 'actually it began with innate ideas, forgetting that these 
represented empiric phenomena which were taken for granted, 
not deduced, and thus destroyed a priori. Idealism wished to 
attribute all reality, all reason to the mind and, at the same 
time, admitted that matter contained within itself an independ- 
ent and autonomous principle of existence which allowed 
extension to range proudly at the side of thought as an 
element alien to it. In idealism those truths are always ac- 
cepted as universal and pre-existent, which have yet to be 
deduced. 

Materialism talso possessed in reserve similar pj:e-existent 
truths which it could not deduce. Hume was quite justified in 
saying that the materialists believed in the authenticity of ex- 
perience. Materialism has continually posed the question: "Is 
our knowledge true?" but answered quite a different one: 
"Where do we draw our knowledge from?" It did well to pro- 
ceed always from the phenomenology of knowledge but it did 
not remain true to its principle of exact observation. Other- 
wise it could not have failed to see that thought, and truth, 
were based on the activity of the mind and not on an external 
object; this activity, though stimulated by experience quite 
true is yet independent and develops in accordance with its 
own laws. Otherwise the general could not have developed 
because the particular is absolutely incapable of generalizing 
itself. The materialists did not understand that when empiri- 
cal phenomenon reaches consciousness it also becomes a psycho- 
logical phenomenon. Materialism wanted to found a purely 
empirical science, not realizing that that was a contradictio 
in adjecto, that experience and observation, accepted passively 
and arranged by means of external reasoning, furnished 
actual data but lent them no form while science is precisely 



274 A. HER ZEN 

the form of the self-cognition of the real through which the 
real cognizes itself. AH the efforts of materalism, ail its subtle 
analyses of intellectual faculties, the origin of the language 
and the association of ideas conclude with the declaration that 
particular phenomena are true and real It cannot 'be contested 
that phenomena of the external world are true, and the inabil- 
ity to recognize this on the part of idealism is conclusive proof 
of its one-sided view. The external world (as we have already 
pointed out in one of our previous letters) is "manifest proof 
of its reality/' It exists precisely because it is true; that is just 
as undeniable as that the inner world (i.e., thought), that 
actus purus of mind, is ialso true .arid is also a real phenome- 
non. The crux of the matter lies not in this admission, but in 
the connection between the external and the internal, in the 
transition from one into the other, in the understanding of 
their real unity. Without this it will not help much to know 
that the object is real because man will not have the means 
of grasping it. From the point of view of consciousness, of 
method, materialism is far inferior to idealism. If materialism 
were philosophically logical, it would have exceeded its 
bounds, ceased being itself, and therefore it is pointless to 
pause on the obvious inconsistency of its views: it is already 
implied. Its great significance lay elsewhere in the purely 
practical* domain, in its application to life; it had at its dis- 
posal the entire fund of human knowledge which it had inves- 
tigated, evolved, and utilized for the noble end of bettering the 
material and social life of man, of dissipating prejudices and 



* There was a time when idealism in Germany thought it creditable 
to be useless, impractical and spoke contemptuously of the utilitarianism 
of philanthropic and moral doctrines of the Scotch, English, and French 
thinkers. At that time the idealists preached against the factual sciences, 
claiming to be of superior cast, alien to the world of practical activity. It 
never occurred to them that a person who was impractical and kept aloof 
from his times was, for the most part, not a superior being, but a wind- 
bag, a dreamer, a romanticist, a victim of artificial civilization. 
The Greeks would not have understood this idea, it is so absurd. 
The idea of self-alienation from life could have been engendered only in 
the dark and closed cabinets of theoreticians and, only in Germany at 
that, where social life, after the Treaty of Westphalia, was not one of the 
most brilliant. A.M. 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 276 

gathering facts. The .absurdities of its doctrines which have 
not been exploded will be; what was true and good remained 
and will remain. Errors of logic should not make us lose sight 
of this. 

It is incredible that materialism and idealism should 
continue to misunderstand each other to this day, yet it is so. 
I know very well that not a single tract appears without 
idealism referring to this antagonism as something belonging 
to the past; that there is not a single empiricist of note who 
does not admit that experience, without <a general view, without 
speculation, cannot produce the full effect but this avowal 
is perfunctory iand ineffectual* Is that >all we can expect 
after the fruitful and grand ideas cast [abroad by the great 
Goethe, and then by Schelling and Hegel? Honest men of 
our days have understood that it was necessary to reconcile 
empiricism and speculation, but they went no further than 
theoretically admitting this. One of the distinctive traits of our 
times is that we know everything and do nothing. Science is 
not to blame for this. Science, as we have had occasion to 
observe, reflects in a purified and generalized form those 
elements by which it is surrounded and conveys them to the 
consciousness. Jean Paul Richter says that in his days, in order 
to reconcile, antagonistic principles, you took one part of light 
and one part of dark, mixed them together in a jar, and that, 
as a rule, produced a charming penumbra. It is that vagueness 
entre chien et loup which is so dear to the irresolute and apa- 
thetic majority of our times. 

But let us return to Bacon. 

His influence wias tremendous; it seems to me that even 
Hegel did not fully appreciate him. Bacon, like Columbus, dis- 
covered a new world in science which people were familiar 
with from time immemorial, but had lost sight of in their pre- 
occupation with the higher interests of scholasticism. He shook 
the blind faith in dogmatism; he discredited the old metaphys- 
ics in the eyes of thinking men. After him there began an un- 
ceasing reaction everywhere against the transcendental theo- 



* I leave out several attempts made quite recently in Germany am! 
even in France. A.M. 



276 A. HERZEN 

ries of scholastics in all fields of knowledge. After him there 
.began the indefatigable and disinterested toil of investigation, 
of conscientious research. Societies were organized in London, 
in Paris, and in various cities of Italy for the purpose of 
studying nature. Naturalists redoubled their activity. The sum 
total of phenomena and of observed facts grew in direct ratio 
as were dissipated metaphysical phantoms, those words, as 
Bacon said, which were meaningless and obscured the clear 
gaze of the observer and gave him a false conception of nature. 
Since Bacon was unable to transmit his universality to his 
followers, their one-sidedness is very comprehensible. Lucid 
and practical minds, after long years of idleness, found some- 
thing to do, found a vital objective, many-sided and 'absolutely 
new, which, moreover, compensated for the labour expended 
with quite unexpected discoveries and which shed light on a 
multitude of phenomena. This was not the tedious and dry de- 
velopment of hocceitas and quiditas, 41 deduced from under the 
scaffolding of a logic deformed, unnecessary and interspersed 
with quotations. No, this was something alive, warm, pal- 
pitating with life. Having felt the magic (attraction of work in the 
field of the natural sciences iand of practical work in general, 
could these people have spoken about metaphysics without ran- 
cour? All of them had undergone from their youth up the tor- 
ture of peripatetic exercises; all of them had studied a distorted 
Aristotle. Could they help, after that, giving themselves up 
wholly, even if it were an unjust and one-sided action, to the 
study of nature? Incidentally, their negation did not have -at 
first that restricted character which manifested itself subse- 
quently when materialism itself presumed to abandon its role 
of insurgent in order to institute its own metaphysical system, 
its theory with claims to philosophy, to logic, to an objective 
method, that is to say, to everything the absence of which con- 
stituted its strength. This systematizatjon of materialism ibegan 
much later, with Locke. His disciples committed numerous 
errors but did not, however, fall into dogmatism. Bacon's early 
followers were different. Hobbes, one of them, was 'appalling 
in his fearless consistency. The doctrine of this thinker who, 
according to Bacon, understood him better than any other of 
his contemporaries, was sombre and austere. He excluded 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 277 

everything spiritual from his science. He denied the general 
and saw only an uninterrupted stream of phenomena and par- 
ticularsfa stream which had its origin and end in itself. He 
found nothing to prove the existence of the divine in his rigid 
set of vehement ideas. A distressed witness of terrible revolu- 
tions, he perceived only the dark side of events. People, as he 
siaw them, were bora enemies grouped in society because of 
egotistic interests land who, had they not been restrained by 
mutual advantages, would have thrown themselves on each 
other. Consequently, he did not hesitate to fly in the face of his 
country, and cynically declare that he judged despotism alone 
capable of assuring ia well-administered state. Hbbbes was a 
terror to his contemporaries; the mere mention of his name 
made them shudder. Southern materialism, as it 'appeared in 
Lucretius's native land, had a different aspect. Abbot Ga-ssendi 
resurrected it in its old apparel of Epicureanism and the atomic 
theory but his Epicureanism was brought into alignment with 
the Catholic dogma and so 'ably that the Jesuits found his 
philosophia corpuscularis incomparably more in accord with 
the doctrine of mysteries of the Roman church than was Carte- 
sianism. Gassendi's atoms are very simple: these iare the same 
atoms which we met in Democritus, those very infinitesimal, 
invisible, intangible and indestructible particles which go to 
make up all bodies 'and all phenomena. Combining, acting on 
each other, moving and setting in motion, these atoms produce 
all the great diversity of physical phenomena, themselves re- 
maining unchanged. It is conspicuous that Gassendi is very 
positive on the point of the indestructibility of matter. This 
view, ias far as I know, is first and concisely expressed by Te- 
lesio. 42 It is also to be found in Bacon but Gasseadi expressed 
it admirably. "Material being," he said, "has a very strong 
point in its favour: the whole -universe cannot destroy an exist- 
ing body/ 1 Of course, what he had in mind was being and not 
form or a qualitative definition. Gassendi's reference to the nar- 
rowness of the human mind is reminiscent of the manner 
characteristic of naturalists of later days. He himself realizes 
the deficiencies of his theories, which he leaves, nonetheless, 
intact. He redeems these defects (again, as the naturalists do) 
by an intelligent and serious exposition of all his information 



278 A. HERZEN 

on nature. Gassendi, like Newton after him, can scarcely be 
regarded as a philosopher: 43 they are great men of science, not 
philosophers. There is no contradiction in this if you grant 
that the contents of the real are elaborated outside of the philo- 
sophical method. Englishmen who call Newton a great phi- 
losopher do not know v/hat they are talking about. 

Since I have mentioned Newton, allow me to say a few 
words (about him. Hfe views on nature were purely mechanical. 
This does not necessarily mean, however, that he was a Carte- 
sian. He had so little sympathy for Descartes that after read- 
ing eight pages of his book (as he himself admits), he closed 
the volume never to open it iagain. However, this mechanical 
view swayed minds other than Descartes. The passion for 
abstract theories was so great in the seventeenth century that 
the followers of Descartes and Bacon, opposed to each other in 
all things, joined hands on the mechanical construction of na- 
ture, on the desire to express all its laws mathematically and 
thus to apply their mathematical method to them. Newton con- 
tinued the work .begun by Galileo who, incidentally, stood on 
the same ground on which Newton -subsequently found himself: 
for Galileo the body, matter, was something dead, stirred into 
action by inertia, whereas force was something different, com- 
ing from the outside. 

Mathematics must necessarily be a part of all branches of the 
study of nature; quantitative definitions are extremely impor- 
tant and -are -almost always inseparable from qualitative defi- 
nitions, changes in them invariably resulting in changes in the 
other. The same component parts, in different proportions, re- 
sult in a diversity of organic tissues, in a variety of forms of 
the crystallization of organic and inorganic substances. So, 
obviously, mathematics is of tremendous importance 'in physio- 
logy, let alone in more abstract sciences such as physics or 
those exclusively quantitative sciences as astronomy land me- 
chanics. Mathematics introduces in natural science logic a 
priori, by means of which empiricism recognizes reason. Having 
expressed in the simple language of mathematics the laws 
which rule in the world of empiricism, a series of phenomena 
reveal unsuspected relations and results which leave no doubt 
as to the veracity of the deduction. That is all so, but a purely 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 279 

mathematical view (no matter how self-sufficient it is) cannot 
embrace all the subject matter of natural science. Nature re- 
tains something more, which is not subject to it. The category 
of quantity is one of the most substantial qualities of all that 
exists; however, it does not exhaust all that is qualitative and 
if we adhere in our study of nature exclusively to it, the result 
will be Descartes's definition of the animal as a pyro-hydraulic 
machine moved by levers, etc. Of course, the extremities are 
levers and the muscular system is a very complex machine. 
However, Descartes was unable to explain the influence of will, 
the influence of the brain on the regulation of the parts of the 
machine through the nerves. Mechanical, physical and chemical 
definitions are indispensable if we tare to understand the living 
world. These are those preliminary stages which had to be 
overcome or cancelled before the complex process of life could 
appear. But it is precisely that unity which cancels them that 
constitutes the new element which cannot be subordinated to 
any one of the preceding elements but, indeed, subordinates 
them to itself. The inner activity characteristic of the whole 
living organism and of every one of its cells -still eludes mathe- 
matics, physics, even chemistry, although the forms of its 
activity and its quantitative definition belong entirely to the 
domain of mathematics, just as the interaction of constituent 
elements is governed by physical and chemical laws. The re- 
course to mathematics where it is not essential, even where it 
is futile,' is very symptomatic: mathematics elevates ma.n into 
the sphere which, formal and abstract as it is, is nonetheless 
purely scientific it is the complete external reconciliation of 
thought and matter. Mathematics is a unilateral development 
of logic, one of its aspects, or, if you like, the logical move- 
ment of mind itself in terms of its quantitative definitions. It 
has preserved that same independence in regard to the con- 
crete, and that same infallibility of deduction, through pure 
reason; in addition it has that tempting clarity, a quality which, 
incidentally, is always directly proportionate to its one-sided- 
ness. Bacon, who understood very well the importance of math- 
ematics in the study of nature, pointed out, in his time, to the 
danger of mathematics overwhelming other aspects (inciden- 
tally, he says, that the scientists' preoccupation with quanti- 



280 A. HE.RZEN 

iative definitions is due to their thoughtlessness and superfi- 
ciality and that if they confined themselves only to them, they 
would lose sight of the inner contents).* 

Newton, on the contrary, committed himself exclusively to 
.the mechanical view. It is hard to imagine a mind less philo- 
sophical than Newton's. He was a good mechanician, a nrathe- 
.miatician of genius but he was no thinker. The theory of gravi- 
iation, in all the grandeur of its simplicity, with its universality 
jand extensive applicability, is but a mechanical representation 
of phenomena, ia representation, perhaps correct, but not justi- 
fied by logic, i.e., inadequately conceived as a hypothesis which 
lays claim to the greatest probability. Nor were the properties 
of attraction and repulsion attributed by Newton to bodies as 
essential to ia body as Newton thought. Consequently, these 
were hypothetical facts or self-evident observations, as you 
like, but not logical facts. Or, further, the trajectory of 
celestial bodies being what it is, is interpreted by mechanics 
as the resultant of two forces: one of them becomes compre- 
hensible thanks to the preceding hypothesis; the other, how- 
ever, remains absolutely incomprehensible (the tangential 
force). This force (or the impulsion which produces it) is nei- 
ther contained in the conception of the body, nor in that of the 
environment: it appears a la deus ex machina and has remained 
such to this day. But this does not trouble the constructors 
of celestial mechanics. Mathematics, as a rule, grows indifferent 
to all logical demands but its own. Once Copernicus, while 
deliberating over his great idea, proposed to work out a simpler 
way of calculating the orbits of the planets. Then Newton de- 
clared that he left it to the physicists to solve the problem of 
the reality of hypothetical forces and offered the convenience 
of his theory for mathematical formulas ias its major virtue. 

* Bacon criticized astronomy very sharply (De Aug. Scientiarum"). 
"Certainly astronomy offers to the human intellect a victim like that 
which Prometheus offered in deceit to Jupiter. Prometheus, in the place 
of a real ox, brought to the altar the hide of an ox of great size and 
beauty, stuffed with straw and leaves and twigs. In like manner astrono- 
my presents only the exterior of the heavenly bodies (I mean the number 
of the stars, their positions, motions, and periods), as if it were the hide of 
the heavens; beautiful indeed and skilfully arranged into systems; but 
the interior (namely, the physical reasons) is wanting. " A.M. 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 281 

In spite of the immen.se success of Newton's theory, his 'me- 
chanical interpretation of nature could not hold its own. The 
first emphatic protest against an exclusively mechanical view 
was raised in the chemical laboratories. Chemistry remained 
more true to the real Baconian method than all the other 
branches of natural science. Empiricism, it is true, dominated it 
but it remained almost entirely free from abstract theories and 
from the constraints imposed on the object. Chemistry remained 
faithful to the objectivity of matter and its properties, which 
it had recognized. 

But an even more energetic protest came from another quar- 
ter. Leibnitz, .another igreat mathematician, and an equially 
great thinker, rose in arms against the exclusively mechanico- 
materialistic view. Treatment of the main principles of his sys- 
tem would lead us too far iafield iand, therefore, I beg leave to 
conclude first my narration of Bacon's school, to bring it up to 
Hume, i.e., to Kant, then again to return to Descartes iand to 
trace the history of idealism in the interval between them. In 
this history we shall encounter only two figures, but of what 
calibre! We shall see to what heights the genius of abstraction 
can rise, how intelligence can develop Cartesianism. Spinozia 
marked the limits of idealism. To advance further, it was nec- 
essary to leave idealism behind. To remain within it meant 
limiting oneself to the role of ta commentator of Spinoza, a 
sponger at his sumptuous board. Leibnitz undertook to 
advance another step. Leibnitz is the first idealist of modern 
cast, familiar, kindred to us. The austerity of the Middle Ages 
and the stilted impassiveness of Protestantism have left their 
deep mark on the sombre Descartes and on Spinoza who, inac- 
cessible in his moral purity, had retained much of Jewish ex- 
clusivism and Catholic (asceticism. Leibnitz had almost com- 
pletely freed himself of the influences of the Middle Ages: he 
knows everything, loves everything, sympathizes with every- 
thing. His spirit is receptive to all ideas; he knows everyone in 
Europe iand corresponds with everybody. He has not that sacer- 
dotal pompousness of the scholastics. As you read him you 
feel that the day is coming with its realities, which will make 
you forget your reveries and dreams; you feel that the time 



82 A. HERZEN 

has come to abandon the telescope for the magnifying glass, 
that there has been enough discussion of the one substance 
the time has come to speak of the great multitude of monads.* 

Sokolovo, June 1845 

LETTER EIGHT 
REALISM 

BACON'S inductive method acquired more and more followers. 
The discoveries which followed one another with amazing 
rapidity in medicine, physics, and chemistry drew the minds 
more and more into the sphere of natural science, observations 
and research. Attracted by empiricism, easy analyses of the 
facts and 'apparent lucidity of inferences, Bacon's followers 
wanted to make experience and induction not only a source but 
also the consummation of all knowledge. They regarded the 
raw, undigested material (acquired through immediate percep- 
tion, generalized by analogy, and analyzed by rational catego- 
ries, as the sole possible truth for human reason, if not the most 



* We are obliged to omit some very remarkable phenomena 
and several outstanding personalities who appeared in the seventeenth 
century not in the main current of science but, so to .say, in one of its 
tributaries. Here belong English and French mystics who held out their 
hands to empiricism and made peace with it (like legitimists make peace 
with the radicals) on the common ground of the recognition of the 
impotence of mind; then there are a number of sceptics who, like the 
mystics, distrusted intelligence incomparably more than experience (so 
great was the reaction against the dogmatism of the scholastics). Among 
them is the celebrated Bayle who came out in defence of religious 
tolerance recognized in Russia by Peter the Great and not recognized in 
France by the great Louis XIV. Bayle was one of the most tireless 
militants of thought of the seventeenth century. He took part in every- 
thing, had a voice in all burning questions, ever humane and caustic, 
evasive and audacious. He acted anonymously but was known every- 
where. Persecuted by the Jesuits, he took refuge in Holland where he was 
likewise persecuted by the Protestants from whom there was no escape. 
The Catholic king of France enriched him by condemning his Protestant 
pamphlets while the Protestant king of England all but deprived him of 
his bread All this taken together is a vivid picture of the seven- 
teenth century, seething with activity and disorders./!.//. 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 283 

complete truth. This conception had long remained an opinion, 
a practice and agreement, rather implied than expressed. 
The tendency to express oneself systematically had long 
been lacking in it. NOT had it claimed to appear as logic and 
metaphysics. The terror of everything metaphysical still reigned 
over the minds. Memories of scholastic idealism were still 
fresh. The attention of the scientists was still concentrated on 
the accumulation of facts and the study of nature. Nature had 
come to rival that proud spirit which in the Middle Ages had 
not deigned to give it ajiy attention. Now the tables were turned. 
Only passive receptivity was required for the mind, while 
the initiative of the mind was regarded as an idle dream. "This 
is merely gross matter," they used to say in the Middle Ages, 
meaning that the object was unreal. Similarly, it wias now said 
that "this is merely thought." But when the revolution bad 
been achieved, the realism of Bacon's school could not resist 
the temptation to systematize, its conceptions^ 1 temptation 
quite natural and common to -every mental activity. Empiricism 
wanted its own metaphysics. The reply to this urge was 
Locke. 

According to Locke, man must begin the analysis of his 
knowledge by examining the instruments of thought, by solv- 
ing the problem ;as to whether the mind is capable of knowing 
the truth and, if so, to what extent and by what means? On the 
face of it Locke's demand seems justified, as all rationalistic 
demands seem surprisingly clear at a first glance. A closer 
look, however, will show their unsoundness. Locke and his 
followers did not realize that their task constituted a logical 
circle. Hume, a 1 man incomparably more igifted than Locke, de- 
manded to know: "By what means is man to analyze his mind? 
By moans of the- mind? But it is the mind its-elf which stands 
accused. Its acquittal may be false precisely because acquitted 
by itself." Hume hit the nail on the head. He was admired by 
his contemporaries as an incisive sceptic, but the profundity 
of his negation and his great role in the development of the 
new philosophy was not divined. The first man to understand 
him was Kant, frozen by the Gorgon's stare of Hume's concep- 
tion. One must, Locke goes on, conceive of a man who has not 
yet ted a single thought and then find how ideas (by ideas they 



284 A. HERZEN 

meant nearly anything: conception, the universal, thought, 
image, form land even impression) are formed from the inter- 
relation of his senses and intellect on the one hand iand the 
external world on the other. For this, let us take a child who 
does not yet speak, o-r & man in his natural state and begin our 
observations. Condillac, yet more consistent, begins with a 
statue, endows it with the sense of smell, then of hearing iand 
step by step arrives at the laws of thought within the statue. 
They called it observation -and analysis and Bacon's reproach- 
ful ghost did not shake a rebuking finger at them from the 
grave. The whole of the eighteenth century had constant re- 
course to the child iand the wild man. Intending to -describe the 
man of the future, Jean Jacques 45 found nothing better than to 
represent him as the remotest, prehistoric man. Neither a child 
nor the hypothetical idiot, nor the cannibal, let alone the doll 
with a sense of smell, are normal human beings. The keener 
the observer, the more false will everything be that he will find 
in them. Suppose we could restore the forgotten and uncon- 
scious state of the primeval workings of the mind; what then? 
We should learn the historical phenomenology of the conscious- 
ness and the physiological interrelation of the senses and the 
energy of thought, and nothing more. Zoology and botany base 
their findings on specimens which are normal and fully devel- 
oped. Why then should anthropology turn to the savage? 
Surely not because he is nearer to the animal, i.e., further 
removed from man. Man has not departed from his natural 
state, as the eighteenth century thinkers believed. He is 
approaching it, iand it is the primitive state which 
is the most unnatural to him. That is why he emerges 
from that state whenever the possibility arises. The remoter the 
past and the closer he is to the primitive state, the 'more un- 
natural he is. This scarcely occurred to the philosophers of 
those days. But what are the conclusions drawn from observing 
the hypothetic subman? Locke holds that the simple ideas (con- 
sciousness of impressions, memories of them) are conveyed 
directly to the vacuum of the mind. While receiving percep- 
tions, the mind is passive and contributes nothing from itself, 
but merely retains them. Therefore, the simple ideas have the 
greatest authenticity. But the trouble is that while receiving the 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 285 

simple ideas, people invent signs for them. Catching man at 
this invention, Locke quite justly observes that man igives a 
name not to the real thing, but to the universal, collective con- 
ception, genus or any class to whidi the thing belongs, .and 
consequently to something non-existent. At this point Locke 
must needs have finished with his 'analysis since, if the word 
does not express the truth, then the mind has no means of 
comprehending it, for the word .stands for what the mind con- 
ceives. True enough, one may ask: how does Locke know that 
of the two objects the particular thing and the universal 
word reality and, consequently, the truth belong to the for- 
mer <a ( nd not to the latter? He has no criterion as yet: he is just 
seeking for it. It is very simple: he is ia materialist and there- 
fore he believes -in the object and the authenticity of the senses. 
Were he an idealist, he would, with no more justification, 
assume the word :and the universal to be the truth. As ia matter 
of fact, he is not really seeking for a criterion. He knows per- 
fectly well what he is -after. He merely feigns to be a conscien- 
tious investigator. Furthermore, the universal named by the word 
shows the relation of the seal object to our intellect. Thus, not 
the external impressions alone are >a source of knowledge, but 
also the very iactivity of the mind. Not only does Locke recog- 
nize this, but confers on the mind the exclusive right of disclos- 
ing the relations between objects. He admits that that which 
is revealed by the mind (complex ideas) is essential, yet not 
as authentic as are the simple ideas. This is the embryo of the 
whole of rational knowledge. Mind is conceived as the dark 
empty void impinged by the images of external objects which 
excite some guiding formal activities within it; the more pas- 
sive it is, the nearer it is to the truth, the more active, the more 
dubious. Here the famous nihil est in intellectu, quod non fuerit 
in sensu is placed proudly alongside or opposite to cogito, ergo 
sum\ 

As for Locke's phenomenology, his Essay on Human Under- 
standing is something in the nature of a logical last confession 
of the rational movement. In it he sets down the phenomenon 
of his consciousness and the supposition that in every man 
ideas arise and develop in the same way. Locke reveals, among 
other things, that with the correct use of mental activity, the 



286 A. HERZEN 

complex conceptions necessarily lead to the ideas of force, of 
substratum, 'and, finally, of essence (substance) of cognized 
manifestations (attributes). These ideas exist not in our minds 
alone, but in reality too, though we cognize only their visible 
manifestations through the senses. Bear in mind that from his 
principles it is obvious that Locke was by no means justified in 
making inferences in favour of the objectivity of the conception 
of force, essence, etc. He did his best to prove that conscious- 
ness is >a tabula rasa filled with the images of impressions and 
having the property of combining those images so that the 
similarity of the diverse should constitute ia conception of ge- 
nus. But the idea of essence and substratum does not indeed 
follow either from the combination or from the transposition 
of empirical material. So a new property of intellect appears, 
'and one, moreover, that has objective meaning, as .admitted by 
Locke himself. What horror would have filled Locke's followers 
if they had recognized in this property those very inborn ideas 
of idealism against which they had so tirelessly battled all their 
lives. For some idealists did not identify inborn ideas with 
ready-made maxims, visions, irrefutable >and meaningless fiacls 
alien to consciousness and forced upon it, but rather conceived 
them as the indispensable forms inherent to the workings of 
the mind, those forms being the apodictic proof of their own 
actuality, i. e., what Locke says about the conception of essence. 
While agreeing with Locke, the materialists naively took excep- 
tion to the expression "innate ideas" .and argued that they 
could not be innate because they might not develop. What of 
that? The organic process should inevitably develop the ani- 
mal's blood system, nerves and so on, according to its gen- 
erical conception (perhaps pre-existent and consequently real- 
ized), but it also may not develop. It needs the external 
conditions for that. Were they absent, the organism 
would not be. Instead, some other process, which has 
nothing to do with the organic normalcy, would take place. 
Now if the conditions emerge which tare necessary for the 
origination of the organism, then blood and nerve systems will 
inevitably develop according to the general type of the order, 
class, and genus to which the organism belongs, in both cases 
the generic conception remaining true and, if you like, innate, 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 287 

inherent, pre-existent. The fact is that it is impossible, sharing 
Locke's point of view, to escape from these formial contradic- 
tions a.nd inconsistencies. Rationalism (i.e., the stage of intel- 
lect when the empirical contents are analyzed in their logical 
elements) contains in itself no means of solving the contra- 
diction which is set by itself and is conditionally true only in 
relation to itself. At this analyzing stage, reason is like a chem- 
ical reagent: it breaks up a given chemical unit, but, while 
doing so, disengages only one part and unites with the other. 
That is the gist of the argument about the innate ideas, essence, 
etc. There 'are two aspects to 'all similar problems: in their 
extremes f hey are one-sided and contradictory; midway they 
are blended. Taken apart, they iare simply fialse and result in 
the inextricable series of antinomies in which both sides are in 
the wrong, as long as they exist in abstract remoteness from 
each other; they can be true only if their unity is conceived. 
But the consciousness of this unity goes beyond the bounds of 
that stage of thought which people of reflective thinking do not 
want to leave behind; I say do not want to, because one has to 
work hard and acquire much inert stubbornness to keep from 
following the dialectical impulse which of itself brings one out- 
side ratiocination. The mind free from a system accepted, indeed, 
imposed on itself, halting at ;a one-sided definition of an object, 
involuntarily turns to the side which compensates it. This is the 
first beat of the dialectical heart. On the face of it, the heart too 
merely oscillates, but in reality this beat attests to the live 
stream coursing continuously; and with each dialectical transi- 
tion, with every pulsation, thought becomes ever more pure 
and virile. Let us take, for example, Locke's one-sided view of 
the origin of knowledge iand essence. It is obvious that expe- 
rience stimulates consciousness, but it is equally obvious that 
the consciousness thus stimulated is by no means produced by 
experience, which is only a requisite impulse. Such an impulse 
cannot be responsible for the consequences, because the latter 
are beyond its power, because consciousness is not a tabula 
rasa, bait an actus purus, the activity not external to the object, 
but on the contrary, its innermost core, for thought and object, 
in general, do not constitute two different things, but two 
aspects of something whole and single. If you 'adhere firmly 



288 A. HER ZEN 

either to the one side or to the other, you will never extricate 
yourself from the resulting contradiction. There is no con- 
sciousness without experience, as there is no experience withoul 
consciousness, for who will bear witness to it? Consciousness 
is supposed to have the property of opposing experience in 
some ways, while it is evident that experience is a pretext, prius 
without which this property would not be manifest. Philoso- 
phers dared not accept thought as self-sufficient activity for 
whose development experience and consciousness, occasion land 
property tare equally necessary. They wanted either the one or 
the other and lapsed into fruitless repetition. In these tautolo- 
gies, ever contradictory, there is something so repugnant to 
man, something which so reviles him and is so destitute of 
meaning that man, if he has failed to overcome the rationalistic 
standpoint, renounces his best possession, belief in reason, to 
save himself from them. Hume had that intrepidity of negation, 
that heroic self-effacement, while Locke halted midway. It is for 
this reason that Hume stands 'head and shoulders above Locke. 
It is easier for the logical mind to deny and lose everything 
near and dear than to halt midway without deducing the ulti- 
mate conclusion from the first principles. 

The question of essence and 'attribute, or the visible existence 
of essence, leads us to a simitar antinomy. Analyzing being, 
reason -arrives soon, bypassing through a series of qualitative 
and quantitative definitions, through a series of abstractions, at 
the conception of essence which posits being, calls it into ex- 
istence. By renouncing its modifying exterior, being strives to 
reflect in itself and reveal its essence as opposed to its external 
manifestations, -as it were. But as soon ias the mind attempts 
to comprehend the basis, the cause, the inner working of being 
apart from being, it discovers that essence without manifesta- 
tion is as great a nonsense as being without essence; the es- 
sence of what is it then? Return manifestation to it and you 
will be back in the sphere of the 'attributes of being. It is that 
complement comparable to a sound which should complete the 
chord. But what is the meaning of this dialectical necessity 
which pointed to essence whenever man wanted to pause on 
being, and pointed to being whenever he wanted to pause on 
essence? It is apparently a vicious circle, whereas in point of 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 289 

fact it is an indissoluble bond. This contradiction clearly shows 
that one cannot pause on the poor categories of national analy- 
sis, that neither being nor essence taken .apart are true. Above 
I drew a comparison between reason iand a reagent, but ia 
more apt comparison may be drawn: reason may be compiared 
to a galvanic battery which in a sense decomposes everything 
into two parts, but which disengages one component only by 
having drawn the other to the opposite pole. Antinomy does 
not bear evidence to its falsity. On the contrary, it hinders the 
unjustified workings of the mind, forbidding it to .accept an 
abstraction for the whole. It summons the opposite to the pole 
as it might ia witness in ia lawsuit and proves that it is equally 
veracious. The dialectical train of thought seems at first humil- 
iating to a thinking person, even fills him with sorrow and 
despair by its marshalled dreariness and unexpected rever- 
sions to the beginning. It isias offensive las the sight of his own 
roof is to the traveller who has lost his way and, after hours 
of wandering, finds that he has returned to where he started. 
But his indignation should be followed by the desire to realize 
the situation, to analyze what has happened, and this analysis 
is sooner _or later bound to lead to the higher spheres of 
thought. 

Locke 'acted illogioally when he admitted the objectivity of 
essence and equally illogically when he inferred that it is im- 
possible to know essence for the sole reason that it cannot be 
separated from its manifestations; whereas it is precisely 
through the latter that essence can be comprehended. Attributes 
are the tongue witfi which to express the inner world (recollect 
J. Boehme). Locke acted illogically when he assumed reason- 
ing to be the source of knowledge; whereas his entire concep- 
tion was based on the fact that there is nothing in conscious- 
ness besides that which is received from the senses. He trips 
himself up at every step. To put it bluntly, Locke's Essay on 
Human Understanding will not bear criticism. It owed its tre- 
mendous success to its timeliness. The metaphysics of mate- 
rialism could not develop, since Bacon's school had no bent for 
metaphysics. The great things achieved by it were achieved 
outside of its system. Its system was good >as a reaction to 
scholasticism and idealism; and as long as it regarded itself 
191157 



290 A. HERZEN 

as ia reaction it was useful; but as it passed from protests to 
systematized order, to theory, it became untenable. Logically 
the whole of Locke's conception is a mistake as glaring ,a:s are 
all constructions of practical spheres which proceed from ideal- 
ism. In the sphere of thought Locke indeed represents com- 
mon sense beginning to lay claim to dogmatism, rational 
prudence, equally removed from lofty intellect iand vulgiar 
stupidity. His method in philosophy is comparable to esprit de 
conduite in morality. With this method it is difficult to stumble, 
but equally difficult to -depart from the beaten tra'ck. Locke's 
exposition is wise, steady, bright and full of practical observa- 
tions. His conclusions are self-evident because his subject 
matter is so. He invariably keeps to the golden mean and 
abstains from extremes. But it is not enough to dread the direct 
consequences of one's principles in one direction or ianother 
in order to rise to the level of a reasonable reconciliation of 
both. 

Proceeding from the same principles, CondiUac was more 
consistent. He rejected the thought that reasoning might be a 
source of knowledge, for it not only presupposes perception, but 
actually is nothing but perception. He accepted the very asso- 
ciation of ideas not for the free working of the mind, but for the 
inevitable effect of perceptions. In this way, all spiritual proc- 
esses were reduced to perceptions. On the other hand, the 
same Condillac argued that "the bodily organs of the senses 
constitute an (accidental origin of knowledge, of sensuous per- 
ception. This, however, served him to no purpose. Condilliac's 
logic was not without merit so far as the external mechanics of 
thought is concerned. It is distinct, clear-cut, and teaches 
strictness and circumspection of a kind. But it is not a method 
with which great things can be 'built. It is a method of artifi- 
cial classifications, identifications, etc. 

The metaphysical materialists did not at all write what they 
wished to write about; they did not even touch upon the inner 
side of their problem, but merely spoke of its external workings; 
the latter were described accurately enough, it cannot be de- 
nied, but they thought that was all there was to it, and were 
mistaken. The theory of -sensuous thinking was a kind of mechan- 
ical osvcholoerv. iust as the Newtonian conception was median- 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 29J 

ical cosmology. Besides, it should be always borne in mind 
that Locke's school regarded thought as the particular, sepa- 
rate, and personal ability of one typiqal man. The mind as ge- 
neric thinking which exists and evolves in history and science 
failed to gain their attention. For that reason they tall lacked 
historical understanding of the past stages of thought. Nothing 
could be stranger than their analysis of the ancient philoso- 
phers. Try as they would, they could not comprehend the con- 
temporary and nearly contemporary thinkers. Condillac, for 
example, wrote a detailed analysis of Malebranche, Leibnitz 
and Spinoza. It is obvious that he read them extensively, but 
it is likewise obvious that he never identified himself with them, 
that he was biased and sought only to oppose his own views to 
what they said. And that is no way to analyze philosophers.* 
The materialists, indeed, could not understand the objectivity 
of the mind and therefore they, naturally, falsely defined not 
only the historical development of thought, but also the general 
relations between mind and object and, at the same time, -the 
relation between man and nature. For them, being and thought 
are either dissociated or react upon each other in an external 
way. Nature minus thought is a part and not the whole; 
thought is as natural as extension; as a stage of development, 



* Incidentally, many probably thought it strange that a greater part 
of the thinkers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, reading Plato 
and Aristotle, did not understand at all the unity of the internal and 
the external (Plato's Idea, Aristotle's Entelechy) clearly defined by the 
one and the other. Could narrow-mindedness alone account for this? Not 
likely. The modern man is so divorced from nature that he cannot be 
easily reconciled with it; he also ascribes greater meaning to this sepa- 
ration than did the Greek. The Greeks had no difficulty in understanding 
the indivisibility of essence and being, because they had not realized the 
full width of the gulf separating them. The Middle Ages on the other 
hand brought this separation to the ultimate extreme, and far from being 
satisfied with the way the Greeks had bridged the gulf, even lost the 
ability to grasp it. The Greek abandoned himself to sympathy with the 
truth; the new man desires analysis and criticism; he has killed sympathy 
within himself by reflection and scepticism. The Greek never separated 
either man or thought from nature. Their coexistence was for him a fact, 
if not perfectly intelligible then self-evident. The new science has 
destroyed this harmony in both of its trends (realism and ideal- 
ism).^.//. 



292 A. HERZEN 

as a mechanism, chemism, or tan organic process only at a 
higher level. This simple idea could not be grasped by the ma- 
terialists: they thought that mature without man is complete, 
self-confined, sufficient unto itself, and that man is merely an 
outsider. Of course, natural productions taken separately can 
do without man; but if you consider them together, you will 
find that they are incomplete in tall ways iand that they are for- 
tunate precisely in their inability to realize their incomplete- 
ness. The organisms of animals, for example, are abstract for 
all their wholeness, circumscription and concreteness. In 
addition to their own meaning, they hint at some onward 'de- 
velopment. They are full of indications of something more 
complete 'and developed, indications which point to man. To 
prove this there is no need of philosophy; comparative anatomy 
will do. In nature, regarded without man, there can be no con- 
centration and self-scrutiny, no consciousness and self-general- 
ization in a logical -form. And the reason is that we have de- 
clared man himself to be the highest stage of development. 
Nobody is surprised that man cannot see without eyes, since 
the eye constitutes the sole instrument of sight. Man's brain is 
likewise ( an instrument of nature's consciousness. In a state of 
eternal immaturity, nature is subjected to a law which is essen- 
tial, fateful, and vague to itself precisely because it lacks this 
developed ego, that is, man. In man the law grows distinct and 
becomes conscious reason. The moral world is free from exter- 
nal necessity to the extent that it is mature, i.e., conscious. But 
as consciousness in reality is not separated from Toeing, is not 
something else, but, on the contrary, is its consummation, the 
object of its importunity, the elucidation of its indistinctness, 
its truth and justification the physical world freed and justi- 
fied in the moral world is thereby justified in its own eyes. 
Nature, taken without consciousness, is only a torso, a stunted 
growth, ia child which has not attained to possession of a'll its 
organs because not all of them are fully developed. Human 
conciousness without nature, without a body is thought with 
no brain to conceive it and with no object to stimulate it. The 
natural aspect of thought iand personality and their fraternal 
interdependence is a stumbling-block for both idealism and 
materialism, the only difference being that it trips them up from 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 293 

different angles.* Schelling found the struggle of different 
views of mind and nature at its highest iand most extreme 
stage, when, on the one hand, the non-ego bad fallen under 
Fichte's blows 'and the power of reason was proclaimed in in- 
finite spaces, cold and void, iand when the French, on the other 
hand, denied everything non-sensuous and like cranium di- 
viners 47 sought to interpret thought in terms of bumps 'and 
hollows and not the other way round. He was the first to enun- 
ciate, though incompletely, the high unity we have mentioned. 
But to return to Locke and his followers. 

Locke was timid and more conscientious than dialectical. 
Without logical necessity from his point of view, he renounced 
the 'basic principle from which he himself had proceeded. By 
assuming essence to be reality, he completely recognized the 

* To conclude what has been said about Locke and his followers, let 
me cite the following excerpt from the Handbook of General Anatomy 
by Henle, the apothecary ever at his microscope and consequently free 
from all suspicions of idealism. Having analyzed in detail the nervous 
activity and energy of the organ of thought, he declares: "Analyzing the 
complex workings of our spirit, it is possible to reduce them to simple 
notions or categories; but the desire to deduce these categories from 
something external would be as insane as to explain colours by sounds. 
Attempts such as these presuppose what they have yet to explain. That 
was the way of Locke's school which tried to deduce notions from exter- 
nal experience. The assumption nihil in intellectu, quod non ante fuerit 
in sensu is false to such a degree that physiologically it can be rather 
asserted that nothing can pass from the senses into the mind. The 
external cannot even produce sensations unless they precede as a pos- 
sibility. How then could the external penetrate into the organ of thought? 
The external only evolves what is dormant in the latter. Interacting with 
the external world, the energy of the senses becomes specific by the cor- 
responding excitations which replace, as they develop, the original sen- 
sations. The senses supply the corresponding excitation to the organ of 
thought. Certain sensuous notions correspond to the impingement on the 
senses. The degree of the development of the former is proportionate to the 
sensation, to the experience of the senses (von den Erlebnissen der Sin- 
ne). Developed thought is to the original workings of the mind as the 
imagination of a trained eye is to scintillation and coloured spots. To 
return to the original notions is impossible. The history of development 
and the mode of perception have instilled in us the forms whereby we 
think," etc. See Allgemeine Anatomie von Henle, pp. 751-2. It constitutes 
the 6th volume of an excellent edition by which contemporary German 
medical students of nature honoured the memory of their illustrious 
teacher. S. Th. Sommerring. Vom Bau des menschlichen Korpers 



294 A. HER ZEN 

autonomy of mind, which had already been partly recognized 
by assuming the complex ideas to be the source of reason. As 
soon as the idea of essence had come into its own, the possibil- 
ity inevitably arose of reducing to unity the multiple diversity 
of the real. In essence, immediate being would then have found 
its medium and phenomenon its cause, causality 'being insep- 
arable from the conception of essence. Just as Spinoza (we 
shall see that in the following letters), to reconcile the Car- 
tesian dualism with the demands of his profound logical na- 
ture, had only one recourse, i.e., to destroy the reality of the 
phenomenal for the siake of essence, which constituted a 1 kind 
of way out from dualism, so, too, materialism, in the last 
analysis, should have effected not a 1 timid <and hesitating semi- 
recognition of essence, but the full repudiation of it. Essence is 
the thread by which the mind retains everything; sever it, 
and everything will disperse, disintegrate; there will be only 
disjointed phenomena, only individuals which will flash up 
momentarily and disappear at once: the universal order will 
perish. Atoms, phenomena, heaps of facts, accidents will re- 
main, but the harmonious integral cosmos will be no more. And 
that is splendid: when one-sided thinking comes to this 
extreme, it will be nearest to emerging from its limitations. Un- 
doubtedly, the first materialist genius belonging to the trend 
of Bacon and Locke was bound to arrive at this or else re- 
nounce materialism. That genius was David Hume. 

Hume belongs to the small number of thinkers who went the 
whole w>ay, who, having laid down their first principles, had 
the courage to follow up the consequences without fear, man- 
fully to accept both good and evil, to remain true only to their 
starting-point and the logic of their course. Such a man can 
finally achieve tranquillity, will derive conciliation from the 
accuracy with which his inferences follow from his initial prin- 
ciples. Of mediocre people who arrived iat this tranquil harbour 
there were many, but Hume was endowed with an extraordinary 
intellect and 'an unusual gift for dialectics and that was most 
important. He did not choose his first principles. He found them 
ready in his contemporary world, in his own country. He was 
in sympalhy with them as a practical man, as an Englishman. 
His very way of life impelled him to them. He was <a diplomat, 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 296 

an historian and above all a merchant in spite of his aristocrat- 
ic origin. The first principles of Bacon's method were, of 
course, nearer to his heart than Spinoza iand Leibnitz. But from 
these first principles the weighty thinker deduced inexorable 
consequences. He set forth what his predecessors had not dared 
to touch. Where they bad minced words and made concessions, 
Hume gently and nobly, yet with infinite firmness, went 
straight iahead. He was tranquil because he was right. His con- 
science was clear because he had thoroughly done that which 
he had set out to do. Have you seen Hume's portrait? His 
features are striking for their unperturbed serenity iand gentle- 
ness. He is smart *and gay in his French frock. His face is 
plump, his eyes sparkle with intelligence. He is slightly smil- 
ing; his features animated and noble. It does your heart good 
to look at him and you recall that there are many good things 
in life. Turn to the portraits of the other philosophers of his 
time, and you shall find something quite different. The dry, 
self-righteous face of Locke combines the expression of an 
Anglican preacher and the severity of a materialist law-giver. 
Voltaire's face is expressive of malicious irony alone. In him 
the marks of ia great mind are somehow blended with the 
features of 'an orangutan. Kant with his disproportionately 
small head and enormous forehead is oppressive. There is 
something sickly about his face which is reminiscent of Ro- 
bespierre. It bespeaks arduous and continuous toil consuming 
the body. His bnain seems to have spunged up the face to 
achieve enormous labour of thought. Leibnitz with a kingly 
countenance like that of Goethe seems to say in every feature: 
procul estate! Now Hume, on the contrary, draws you to him. 
He is not only ia man of thought, but ia man of life. And such 
he was. He was able to combine high moral standards and 
lofty intellect with the qualities attracting all people who came 
near. He was the heart iand soul of ia small circle of friends, 
iamong them the great Adam Smith iand, at one time, Jean 
Jacques Rousseau who had fled from their jolly companionship 
driven by his irritability and spleen. Hume wias true to himself 
to the very end. At his death, he held ia feast and parted gaily 
with life, clasping the hands of his friends in a dying grip and 
smiling at their parting toast. He was a whole-hearted man. 



296 A. HER ZEN 

Neither Locke nor Condillac could bring their realism round 
to scientific requirements. Hume at first glance realized that 
from this standpoint all metaphysical demands and dogmatism 
would be an absurdity and said so plainly. He saw above all 
that he had refuted the possibiltiy to determine the authenticity 
of knowledge by intellectual criticism. He regarded authentic- 
ity to be an instinct beyond verification by logic. He consid- 
ered it a prejudice. Our consciousness receives not the objects 
themselves, but their images. We assume those images to be 
the effect of the external objects, but proofs there are none: 
we (accept this relation between the impressions and the objects 
prior to the development of judgement. It is pre-existent, sup- 
plied by instinct. The source of knowledge is experience, impres- 
sions which convey to us images and along with them the moral 
conviction, the belief that they correspond to the real objects 
which evoked these images in our consciousness. It is impos- 
sible to deduce the justification of instinct by intellectual ef- 
forts. There are no means for this in the workings of the mind. 
From this it is not to be inferred that our instinct is in the 
wrong, but that our mind is limited. Sensuous impressions and 
images, accumulating in the memory and repeated and blend- 
ed with it in various ways, constitute what we call ideas. All 
ideas, everything thinkable, must first be felt. Omitting this 
or that aspect of the data furnished by impressions and collat- 
ing them, we abstract what is general to them, take them in 
their relations and thereby attain general conceptions. In gen- 
eralizing, the impressions, of course, lose part of their vivid- 
ness, power and individual significance. Believing in his in- 
stinct and retaining a series of impressions in his memory, 
man ascribes various generalizations and consequences of his 
analogies to the objects, having however no right tat iall to do 
this. Experience furnishes only particular phenomena, sensa- 
tions and nothing universal Several times observing a similar 
consequence from a similar precedent man grows accustomed 
to connect these perceptions (and to subordinate the one to the 
other, terming the former the cause or force and the latter the 
effect. Neither experience nor speculation justify this arbitrary 
assumption. Experience offers only ia sequence of two different 
phenomena following each other in time without revealing any 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 297 

other relation between them. The syllogism of causality is ob- 
viously incomplete as it lacks 'an entire premise. B constantly 
follows A. The deduction that A is the cause of B is 
unsound; for I find no other relations between the two dis- 
similars A and B tapiart from the story that first there -appeared 
A and then B and that this was repeated several times. By as- 
suming A to be the cause and B to be the effect we lose the 
last chance to compare them; for only their common denomi- 
nation, in some way identical, can be compared; whereas cause 
tand effect are conceptions so heterogeneous that comparison is 
impossible. The fact is that causality is by no means based 
on deduction or direct experience, but on habit. Man grows 
accustomed by necessity to expect similar effects from similar 
causes. If that necessity were mental the intellect for the first 
time too should have expected the same effect. But it did not 
do so until the second time, because it had begun to grow ac- 
customed. What has been said about causality may be easily 
applied to the conceptions of necessity and essence. Experience 
never furnishes necessary relations in 'anything, but presents 
only the aiggregate and simultaneous coexistence of dissimi- 
lars. The word "essence" is a collective name for a multitude 
of simple ideas fused together. We have no idea of essence 
whatever besides that received from the conglomeration of va- 
rious phenomena and properties grasped by our mind. Through 
unification by similarity, aggregation, simultaneousness >and 
causality ideas apparently grow firmer and more tenable. A 
closer examination, however, will reduce all these igeneralizia- 
tions to the repetition of one and the same thing in different 
ways. (The effect the disclosed cause; the hidden cause an 
undisclosed effect.) For instance, the ego of a human being, 
i. e., the conception of self, appears las a sort of essence of all 
phenomena 1 which constitute the life of <a man. Nothing re ! al 
underlies the conception of our ego. It *s an tacknowledgement 
of self continued uninterruptedly; the impression producing it 
therefore should also be continuous, but there is no such impres- 
sion: our self is an aggregation of many impressions following 
one 'another. We attribute to this aggregation a fictitious nexus 
which we call the ego. This idea arises on the one hand from 
the conception of the continuity of the object and, on the other, 



298 A. HER ZEN 

from the conception of the sequence of various objects which 
succeed each other in correlation; the more we notice the nature 
of the gradual sequence, the less iare we iable to distinguish the 
objects from each other and so in order to expose the contra- 
diction based on simultaneous retention of continuity and se- 
quence, man invents a substance or ia self of his / as an un- 
known something which preserves identity with itself while 
changing. 

Consommatum estl The work of materialism, of its logical 
side, was done. To proceed further theoretically was impos- 
sible. The universe disintegrated into a myriad of particular 
phenomena, our / into a myriad of personal sensations. If 
a connection is disclosed between phenomena and sensations 
this connection is, firstly, accidental and, secondly, deprjves 
what it connects of vitality and completeness and, finally, 
in toto repeats the same in different words. The connection 
between the two has neither logical nor empirical authen- 
ticity, its criterion being instinct and habit. Mind refutes in- 
stinct, but evidence is on its side. Instinct in practice refutes 
the mind though for its part, it has no proofs. There has been 
a desire to reach the truth through sensuous authenticity 
alone. Hume led to the truth of sensuous authenticity, dwell- 
ing on reflection. And what happened? The actuality of mind, 
thought, essence, causality, the consciousness of one's / dis- 
appeared. Hume demonstrated that by this path only these 
conclusions can be reached. But could one not, at least, seize 
upon instinct, upon belief in impression ias upon a lifeline of 
last hope? Under no circumstances. The belief in the (actuality 
of impressions is the work of the imagination and differs 
from any other of its fabrications only by the spontaneous 
sensation of authenticity based on the greater vividness oi 
impressions derived more from the real than the fancied ob- 
jects. This belief, Hume adds, belongs no less to tanimals 
than to man. It can by no means be justified by our mind! 
What Descartes had done in the sphere of pure thought by 
means of his method, Hume had done in practice in the sphere 
of speculative science. He had cleared the g:ates to science 
from everything hitherto given, from all that went before. 
He compelled materialism to confess the imoossibilitv of ac- 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 299 

tual thought from its one-sided standpoint. The void to which 
Hume had led must have had a staggering effect upon human 
consciousness, but it was impossible to escape from it either 
by the method of the idealism of that time or by Locke's tim- 
id materialism. A different solution was needed. The voice 
of Hume brought forth Kant. 

But before we treat of him tand his idealist predecessors, 
let us see what Bacon's school was doing across the 
Channel. 

Realism had obviously crossed to France from England. 
Even the ironic tone, the light literary vestments of thought, 
the theory of egotistic usefulness and the bad habit of blas- 
phemy had all come from England. But what did the French 
contribute? Why are the words realism and materialism inev- 
itably associated with the mames of the eighteenth century 
French writers? If you take the logical basis, theoretical think- 
ing a-s ia whole, you will find that the French added prac- 
tically nothing and could indeed 'add nothing. From the stand- 
point of realism >and empiricism there was one method which 
was formulated by Bacon. In materialism one could go no 
further tha'n Hobbes perhaps only to plunge into scepticism 
and even that had been exhausted by Hume. The French, 
however, achieved very much and it is with good reason that 
they have gone down in history as representatives of eight- 
eenth century science. We have had occasion to observe 
more than once that abstract logical schematics is least of 
all suited to grasp the philosophy of empiricism, not scientif- 
ic in form, yet rich in content. Here it is obvious: if you ex- 
amine not those few poor theoretical ideas which served as a 
starting-point for both English and French, but the develop- 
ment which these ideas received at the hands of the French 
and the English you will be satisfied that France has achieved 
more by far than England. The British can be credited 
only with having taken the initiative. 

In the sphere of science the Encyclopaedists transformed 
Locke in the same way ias the Breton Club, at the time of the 
revolution, transformed the English theory of constitutional 
monarchy: they reached conclusions which either had not oc- 
curred to the English or from which they had turned away. 



300 A. HER ZEN 

This accords perfectly with the national characters of the 
two great nations. The English make every general problem 
local, national; while every particular problem becomes uni- 
versally human with the French. Whatever change the English 
desire, they are intent on preserving the old, while the French 
openly and frankly demand the new. A part of the English 
heart lingers in the past. He is a man of history by prefer- 
ence. From childhood he is accustomed to revere his country's 
past, to respect its laws, customs -and beliefs, which is but 
natural: England's past is worthy of respect. It has developed 
so grandly and harmoniously. It has so proudly guarded 
human dignity even in the times of blackest tyranny that the 
Briton cannot detach himself from his sacred memories. This 
veneration of the past puts restraint* upon him. The English- 
man thinks it indelicate to tresp-ass certain limits, to touch 
upon certain questions. He is an observer of the proprieties 
to the point of pedantry and submits to their conventional 
laws. Bacon, Locke, the English moralists, the political econ- 
omists, the parliament which sent Charles I to the scaffold 
and Stafford who wanted to overthrow parliament, all of them 
strove above all to show themselves as conservative. They 
all advanced with their backs foremost, unwilling to admit 
that they were treading new iand virgin soil. There has -al- 
ways been something confined about the thinking of insu- 
lars. It is clear cut, positive and firm enough, but the coast 
is always in sight, the boundaries visible. The Englishman 
always severs his thread of thought at the point where it de- 
viates from the existing order; iand the broken thread grows 
lax :all the way.* 



* Shakespeare and Hobbes are exceptions. Shakespeare's poetic insight 
into the depths of life and its comprehension are veritably infinite. Hobbes 
was extraordinarily bold and consistent but he may be described in 
the works of Mirabeau addressed to Barnave: "Your eyes are cold, your 
brow is not anointed." Byron, this Hume of poetry, belongs to quite a 
different England. Precisely since the year in which Byron was born 
(1788), this England watched the events of the revolution with intense, 
feverish attention, and like Garrick smiled with the one half of his face 
and cried with the other. It is this England which exclaimed /'I have 
wan," as she sent the Bellerophon, and blushed at this victory. 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 301 

The French have no respect for the past, which so restrains 
the English. Louis XIV respected the past as little as Mira- 
beau: he openly threw the gauntlet to tradition. The French 
learned their history only in our century: in the past they 
had been making history, but did not know what they were 
continuing. They knew the history of Rome and Greece only 
in terms of French morals and manners, rouged and corset- 
ed. At the time in question, the French were intent on deduc- 
ing everything from reason: both civil life and morals. They 
wanted to rely on theoretical consciousness alone 'and neg- 
lected the legacy of the past because it was iat odds with their 
a priori, because by its spontaneous ready-made way of life 
it hindered their abstract work of speculative 'and conscious 
conception. And so the French, far from knowing their past, 
were its enemies. With this kick of all restraint, with their 
fiery, energetic temperament, their quick wits, their unrelaxing 
mental activity, their gift for brilliant and captivating writ- 
ing, it is only natural that they should have left the English 
far behind. 

The movement of thought to which Descartes and his fol- 
lowers had given such a strong impetus was on the wane. Des- 
cartes's exponents were alien to the French spirit. The French 
more readily understood and took to Rabelais iand Montaigne 
than to Malebranche. Voltaire himself reproached Leibnitz 
for being too deep. With such a cast of mind as theirs noth- 
ing could have been more natural and timely than the spread 
of English philosophy in France in the early eighteenth cen- 
tury. The development and simplification of Bacon and Locke, 
of the most popular moral philosophy of England was wrought 
in France by skilful hands. Never before had such a vast body 
of various data been put into more eligible shape. Never had 
philosophical conception such an extensive sphere of appli- 
cation, such powerful and practical influence. The works of 
the British were completely eclipsed by the expositions of the 
French. France reaped what England had sown. England had 
had B'acon iand Newton. France told their idea's to the world. 
England had offered Locke's timid materialism. Developed in 
France, it assumed the audacity of Holbach and his colleagues. 
England for centuries had led an intense juridical life 



302 A. HERZEN 

And it was a Frenchman 48 who wrote De i 'esprit des 
For ages, England had been proudly confident that there could 
be no more finished form of state than her own. But in France 
two years de la Constituante were sufficient to reveal the 
.ineptriess of such a system. 

When Helvetius published his famous book De I'esprit, one 
lady remarked: "Cest un homme qui a dit le secret de tout 
le monde" Now this lady who so aptly described not only 
Helvetius, but all the French thinkers of the eighteenth cen- 
tury, did not perhaps appreciate that to voice what others 
had kept to themselves is by far more difficult than to utter 
what had not occurred to anyone. The Encyclopaedists had 
indeed let out the general secret and for this were accused 
of immorality; whereas they were not more immoral than 
Paris society of that day. They were only bolder. When peo- 
ple come to have secrets their moral principles are disinte- 
grating. They -are afraid to notice this disintegration and con- 
vulsively clutch at the semblance while losing the essence, 
conceal their sores behind 'threadbare tatters, as if they would 
heal better if unseen. In such an age people most jealously 
and bitterly oppose the exposure of the secrets of moral con- 
ventions and one has to have great courage to speak out 
loudly, to say the things secretly known to everyone. It was 
for just such audacity that Socrates was executed. A public 
airing is the worst enemy of immorality, Vice flourishes in 
darkness, licentiousness dreads the light of day; it craves 
darkness not only for secrecy, but also to whet its unsavoury 
appetite ever yearning for the forbidden fruit. Brought to 
light, it stands confused. Where the doors are open for all 
to enter it is embarrassed and either slinks away or is cleansed. 
The same public airing will justify much that has been 
considered immoral according to prevailing confused notions 
or distorted traditions and, to put it boldly, will broaden the 
scope of the passions themselves when they do not clash with 
the destiny of moral being. The eighteenth century philosoph- 
ers exposed the duplicity and hypocrisy of their contempo- 
rary world, denounced the deceptions of life, pointed to the 
discrepancy between conventional morals and private con- 
duct. Society talked about virtue and morals, abhorred every- 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 303 

thing sensuous, yet abandoned itself to vilest debauchery. 
The philosophers, for their part, proclaimed from the house- 
tops that feelings too had their rights, but that sensuality 
alone could not satisfy a cultivated man, that the higher inter- 
ests of life also demanded their own. In society egotism verged 
on the outrageous, yet concealed itself behind self-sacrifice 
and scorn for riches. The philosophers on the other hand proved 
that egotism is one of the essential elements of all things 
living and conscious; justifying it, they disclosed that human 
egotism is not only love .for oneself, but also for one's kin, 
one's neighbour >and humanity at large.* 

The exposure of the universal secret and denial of hitherto 
prevalent morals made rapid progress. Under Louis XIV Fe- 
nelon's Telemaque was reputed <a terrible book. The regent 
published it at his own -expense. Early in his life, Voltaire 
amazed everyone with his audacity, but twenty years later 
Grimm wrote: "Our patriarch has fallen behind the times 
and clings tenaciously to his childhood beliefs." Voltaire 'and 
Rousseau were nearly men of an age, but what a gulf sep- 
arated them. Voltaire was still struggling for civilization, 
when Rousseau was stigmatizing that artificial civilization of 
his. Voltaire, tan aristocrat of the old century, opened the doors 
from the scented rococo hall to the new century. A courtier 
in silk stockings, he was present at the grand reception and, 
when Louis XV walked by, was named in full by the master 
of ceremonies: Francois-Marie Arouet. On the other side of 
the doors stood the plebeian Rousseau who had nothing of du 
bon vieux temps about him. Voltaire's caustic jibes were rem- 
iniscent of the Duke de Saint-Simon and the Duke de Ri- 
chelieu, while Rousseau's witticisms anticipated those of the 
Committee of Public Safety. When Montesquieu's Lettres 
Persanes were published in 1720, Paris was so shocked by 
the book that the regent who had laughed heartily over the 
letters of Rica et Usbeck was obliged to yield to public opin- 



* One should see the way, so vivid and thrilling, this transition from 
egotism to love is described by Diderot, this most profound of the Encyclo- 
paedists, in his Essai sur le mrite et la vertu, if I remember 
right 



304 A. HERZEN 

ion and harass the author a little for the sake of propriety; 
but when Systeme de la nature by Holbach et C ie was print- 
ed in London fifty years later, it failed to shock anybody. 
Public opinion, on the contrary, scoffed at the persecution of 
such books. That wias the limit, however. This book represent- 
ed the final conclusion of French materialism, Laplace's 
"/'a/ dit tout"\ After the appearance of that book, specific ap- 
plications of it could be made; Systeme de la nature could be 
c mmented by "le Culte de la Raisori"; but it was impossible 
to go any further in audacity of denial. Rationalizing from 
a- confined point of view with ia fearless and consistent mind, 
one had to arrive >at Hume, Holbach, Grimm, or Diderot, i. e., 
at scepticism, which leaves you in the dark on the brink of 
a precipice; or at materialism, which accepts nothing but sub- 
stance and bodies and precisely for that reason understands 
neither the one nor the other in their real meaning. 51 Arriving 
at this boundary, the human mind began to search for other 
ways. It was not the English or the French who cleared fresh 
paths, however, but the Germans who had been prepared for 
achievements in science by their two centuries of inaction, 
who had concentrated all on thinking and ha-d withdrawn 
from life because life had been unendurable for them in the 
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries,* who had treasured the 
works of Spinoza ;and Leibnitz and had been trained by Wol- 
fianism 52 to endure terrific mental strain. 

The Encyclopaedists were one-sided to the point of absurdi- 
ty, but not as shallow and superficial as the Germans sup- 
posed them to be because of the popular language. There is a 
fairy-tale about a giant in seven league boots who was 
compelled to weigh them down with cannon balls to 
retard his speed. I imagine he grew to feel handicapped 
when walking without them. The Germans have grown 
accustomed to read their ponderous philosophical treatises 
by the sweat of their brow. When they fail to get ia splitting 
headache from a book they think (or rather, they thought 
some twenty years ago) that it is mediocre. 



* I recommend reading Schlosser's History of the Eighteenth Cen- 
tury. A.M. 



LETTERS ON THE STUDY OF NATURE 3Q5 

If you at tall remember the development of science, as set 
forth in these letters, you will grasp the historical necessity 
of Descartes and Bacon. You have seen that while passing 
from life into theoretical spheres and transferring its duality 
to this sphere, medieval dualism proceeded in two ways: 
along the path of idealism land that of realism. As soon ias 
you grant the necessity of Descartes and Bacon, or rather 
their doctrines, you must expect both trends to develop to 
the last extreme to the point of absurdity if you will. The 
extreme of realism was expressed by the Encyclopaedists; 
they as faithfully and fully represented one aspect of 
the human spirit as the idealists, the other. Brought 
forth by the times, both, thereafter, were to lose their exclu- 
sive claims and unite in a well-proportioned conception of the 
truth. It is to this reconciliation that Schelling and all his 
followers strove, as mentioned before. It is for this that 
Hegel built an extensive foundation; the rest will be the work 
of time. The language of the two opposite viewpoints is still 
too different: they lack mutual respect and impartiality. Strong 
natures, of course, are above personal or party opinions. In 
his history, Hegel, for instance, at first looked down upon 
Bacon's views and Bacon's school, but gradually, as he leafed 
through the works of the famous men of that time and 
grew used to them, he took fire and was carried away by the 
practical, thinkers to such an extent that his voice trembled 
and his bosom heaved, that his speech took wing and these 
people of limited understanding nearly appeared to him as 
inspired crusaders behind the flowing banners of reason! 
Smiling bitterly then at his native idealists, Hegel remarked: 
"in Germany at that time they were fussing with the Leibnitz- 
Wolfian philosophy, its definitions, axioms and proofs.'** 

Sokolovo, September 1845 



* Geschichte der Philosophie, T. III. p. 529. A.M. 
201157 



FROM THE DIARY 53 

1842 
April 

12 So that's what it feels like to hand in one's resignation: 
I have thrown off a weight, I feel regenerated and the fog has 
cleared up somewhat. 5 * Of the two monsters who stood con- 
stantly at my side with bludgeons raised, one has disappeared. 
And it seems to me that my resignation is an obligation to 
work, for my leisure, and indeed all my time is my own. And I 
shall work. Though I still do not know what the outcome will 
be, what results this step will lead to. 

I should like to write a propaedeutical essay for those who 
want to make ;a study of philosophy, but are confused as to 
the aim, claims and means of the science. In passing one ought 
to indicate the great harm done by good people fond of philo- 
sophizing. Enemies of science are less dangerous than these 
demi-pietists, demi-rationalists. I have begun; but what the re- 
sults will be is more than I can say. 55 

13 I am continuing, in my free time, my reading of the 
course of lectures by Villemain. 56 1 find it very useful: we have 
forgotten the eighteenth century; the century is revived in this 
book, we iare carried back to the d-ays of Voltaire, Buffon and, 
say what you will, these are great names. It is interesting to 
trace how, at the beginning of his career, Voltaire amazes one 
by the audacity of his religious opinions as do Holbach, Di- 
derot twenty years later. Voltaire was outdistanced; material- 
ism gathered impetus. "Le patriarchc ne veut pas se departir 
de son remunerates vengeur; il raisonne la-dessus comme an 
enfant," writes Grimm who just as audaciously and inso- 
lently holds up his head 'and tramples morality underfoot. 
Here you also see das Werden of 1793. Diderot improvises: 



FROM THE DIAHY 30? 

Et mes mains ourdiraient les entrailles da pretre 
A defaut d'un cordon pour etrangler les rois. 

And this phase of development is extremely important and 
has rendered signal service. Their error lay in the fact that 
they saw the genesis of the spirit in the temporal, in the finite; 
they took it for the product of matter, for matter itself. Their 
interpretation of genesis is, in p;art, true; if they had only gone 
several steps further they would have themselves realized that 
for them the word "matter" was coupled with something that 
possesses it, that (animates it, something eternal, infinite, having 
as an aim manifestation iand other attributes which do not in- 
here in passive matter. Just as Spinoza was right from his 
standpoint, so, too, were they right from theirs, iand their point 
of view was as essential. In so far as 'atheism is concerned, it 
is more consistent than Voltaire's or Rousseau's timid deism, 
Incidentally, Rousseau chanced upon the right path for the 
attainment of knowledge of the divine, i. e., of the development 
of spirit up to the point of the contemplation of God. This crea- 
tor of theirs, the geometer of des Jenseits, detached and idle, 
which we oan have no knowledge of land whom we venerate; 
cannot satisfy either the rigorous aspirations of the religious 
mind, or the strict logical mind. The negation of God was a 
step toward the true knowledge of Him; the negation of Him 
as Jehovah or Jupiter who is a stranger on earth, holding 
judgement somewhere on high, has stripped Him of the last 
finitude attached to Him by religious ideas and of the last 
'.abstraction of philosophy. For them, from the point of view of 
analysis and raison naturelle, God only existed as nature, the 
universe, the eternal world of which Pliny says: Aeternus, im- 
mensus, totus in toto, imrno vero ipse totum, the totality of the 
activity of <a closed idemque rerum naturae opus et rerum ipsa 
natura. It is needful to -allow this matter of the creator and the 
creation to ferment together and it must itself larise out of the 
Lucretian tendency along the lines of modern spiritual philos- 
ophy. This movement is stronger than reason, it is its phe- 
nomenology. But Holbach, Diderot and Co. made impossible the 
sensuous Catholic conception which inspired profound minds 
to rise far beyond materialism because they were 'able to detach 

20* 



308 A. HER ZEN 

themselves (unconsciously) from its letter and ascend into the 
sphere of pure speculation, but which had fed the idolatry of 
the masses. What an immense edifice did the philosophy of the 
eighteenth century erect, with the brilliant and sarcastic Vol- 
taire :at one door, <a transition, as it were, from the court of 
Louis XIV to the realm of reason, and at the other the sombre 
Rousseau, half-insane, but full of love, whose witticisms were 
neither trenchant nor akin to the grand siecle? 1 they rather 
anticipated the witticisms of Montagne, S-aint-Just sand Robes- 
pierre. It was with disgust that Voltaire read in Emile** that 
"If the son of the king truly loves the daughter of the hangman, 
the father must not gainsay him." Here is the purely democrat- 
ic rehabilitation de I'homme for you. The masses did not 
read in the manner of Voltaire. The jokes, hints, have their 
effect, but Rousseau's spirited 1-anguage addressed to power 
should have seemed astounding. We have grown accustomed 
to It. 

And all the celebrities of that age were, in England -and in 
France, people in the thick of life: Montesquieu, Buffon and 
others. Germ-an thought and -art came to the forefront later. 
Great and immense as it was, yet it was nurtured in the study. 
The biographies of Germans are impossible reading. Schiller 
ranks first among them, with perhaps Lessing beside him. Why 
then be surprised that Frederick II, practical man that he was, 
could find no answering chord within himself to the trends in 
his country. To rouse his sympathy they had to reveal all their 
might (Goethe, Hegel). 

September 

22. . . The heroism of consistency, the self-sacrificing 
acceptance of consequences is so difficult that the greatest 
people halt before the obvious results of their principles. This 
is true of Hegel, of the development of early Hegelianism, of 
his principles, but Hegel would have renounced them, for he 
loved and respected das Bestehende\ he realized that he would 
not bear the blow and did not wish to be the first to strike. It 
seemed to him that, for the time being, it was enough that he 
had arrived at his principles. The young generation started 



FROM THJJ PIARY 309 

where he left off; (another step forward was precisely that blow 
which was to affect das Bestehende profoundly. Hegel would 
have renounced them but the whole trouble was that they were 
more faithful to him than he was to himself, i.e., to him, as a 
thinker, detached from his accidental personality, the epoch, etc. 
Schelling is a vivid example of one who has fallen behind one's 
own thoughts, of a thinker who stops half-way in his develop- 
ment, without being, incidentally, table to arrest the movement 
which he has set going. Schelling's position, as Ruge 69 said, 
is truly tragic. Any halt, any half measures, are out of place 
when development continues. The Girondins clearly laid their 
heads on the block when they took a stand between the Jaco- 
bins and the monarchists. If the royal party had won they 
would all have been executed. That is how things stand with 
the right Hegelians. To humour Bruno Bauer, 60 Marheineke 61 
behaved most strangely: he wanted to be juste milieu and in- 
stead foun.d himself between two chairs on the floor. Both the 
Prussian Government and the young Hegelian school inveighed 
against him. 

Be either hot or cold! And above all, be consistent. Know 
how to subir the truth to the full. 



1843 

July 

27 Germany's lot in the eighteenth century is both paltry 
and miserable. Its 'aristocrats remain, nonetheless, middle class, 
cela n'est pas du cotnme il faut, they have neither grace nor 
nobleness. And the hideous cretins who reign in sloth and who 
ruin, destroy their people by their senseless extravagance, make 
one wonder where generations upon generations of fools and 
scoundrels come from to the throne and around it, and wonder 
even more -at the cat-like vitality of the Germans who are being 
ruined by war and by 'armies, by hangmen and by counterfeit 
money, by taxes and by everything else in the world and still 
do not starve to death. Such must be the astounding results of 
the potato economy. Immorality attained its limit in Germany 



310 A. HERZEN 

devoid of all humian dignity. The fortresses are packed with 
prisoners; one is persecuted for religion and poetry; for an in- 
solent word about a minister all of which is being done in 
silence, without any ado -and the people digest it all. There 
iare other lands which are equally known for their horrors in 
the middle of the eighteenth century. For example, English 
Parliament cruelly suppressed the uprising in Scotland; but 
there it was an tabnormality; while here it is 'a common occur- 
rence. Scientists and the clergy are the myrmidons of power. 
The French, though oppressed by the despotism of Louis XV, 
were outraged by German villainy. In France you feel the in- 
fluence of the new spirit in every literary work; when you read 
their works you smile: these people were dancing a 1 step 'away 
from the iabyss on the other side of which France was renewing 
herself. In Germany there is not a single ray of light; there is 
only one liberal there and that is Frederick II, the autocrat of 
Prussia. 

August 

171 have a 1 pamphlet by Frauenstadt 62 on Schelling. There 
is nothing so unprofitable -as what Schelling is doing: arrang- 
ing philosophical thought so as to adapt it to a given, immobile 
and extinct conception. That is scholasticism and, at the same 
time, a lie. How much poetry land wit is wasted on the explana- 
tion of myths, yet these explanations leave a disagreeable im- 
pression; you feel that this has all been subsequently invented. 
One can understand Schilling's position: his platonic spirit 
suffers at the sight of negation ;and nothing but negation; but 
how can we explain the fact that he was satisfied by views so 
wretched, mystical, 'artificial and incoherent? Starting with 
pantheism, he arrives iat Judaism and calls this Judaism a po- 
sitive philosophy. As he evolves his positive science it becomes 
increasingly oppressing and embarrassing; you feel that his 
solutions solve nothing, that everything is obscured a-nd is not 
free. Little by little he completely wanders off the scientific path 
and, lost in the most eccentric mysticism, gives an explanation 
of s'atan, miracles, resurrection, the descent of the Holy Ghost, 
au pied de la lettre. It's hard to believe that this wa ( s written in 



FROM THE DIARY 311 

the nineteenth century; it might have come from a scholastic 
of the fourteenth century or from a theologian of the early 
years of the Reformation. The language and the views of Ba- 
con are closer to us and sound more modern. It is further proof 
of how the German mind is 'always ready to swerve into the 
sphere of vague fantasies tand to spend talent land genius on 
futile work, as long as it lies outside the practical domain, as 
long ^s it is not the domain in which man must labide. Never- 
theless, after Kant they could have followed >a sensible track. 
But when all is said and done, Schelling dealt a terrific blow 
to Christianity; his philosophy exposed, finally, the whole 
absurdity of Christian philosophy his name, his quarrel 
with Hegel led all scientific Germany to turn upon him 
and give thought to his delirious speeches. There are things 
which cannot survive being made public, analyzed or 
exposed. 

Schelling is Jacob Boehme, stood up on his head. The lat- 
ter, full of mystic contemplation in all directions, rose to pro- 
found philosophical views, whereas Schelling, from his deep 
philosophical views, descended to infiantile mysticism. Boehme, 
who lived at the beginning of the seventeenth century, fettered 
by mystic terminology, had the resolution not to stop at the 
letter, and the courage to face the consequences frightful for 
the timid conscience of that century; he used his intelligence, 
and mysticism lent it wings. Everything about Schelling gives 
evidence of the subordination of reason, of his making every 
effort to accept theism and tradition, though lacking true naive 
faith. Simple faith will not resort to his Spitzfindigkeiten. 

September 

18 Bacon and Descartes represent the genesis of philosophy 
as a science: without the method of the two, philosophy 
would never have developed in scientific form. Jacob Boehme, 
through more profound and powerful mediums, his genius- 
like intuition, attained great truths, but that was the path of 
genius, the path of individual power. However, genesis is not 
yet philosophy. Bacon's recognition of facts did not completely 



312 A. HERZEN 

subjugate nature to him; nor did Descartes's idealism subju- 
gate the spirit. The seed dropped by Descartes sprouted in 
Spinoza who was the true and universal father of the new 
philosophy. "Ego" he says, "non praesumo, me optimum in- 
venisse Philos., sed verum me intelligere scio" This view 
proceeds from profound reflection and it is true. Spinoza at- 
tained astonishing heights. And what a full life of thought! 
He laid the foundation for the development of German philos- 
ophy; he exhausted one aspect of it (spirit, as a substance), 
and he was the first not to draw upon the external or religious 
or traditional means. Spinoza wias an enemy of formalism, even 
though he clothed his doctrine in scholastic forms. This was a 
defect of the age. For example, the demand for artificial proofs, 
obscure in itself, was alien to his spirit. And no wonder: for 
him thought was the supreme act of love, the aim of spirit, its 
life. Without discussing his theory as a whole, I will mention 
those flashes of genius which continuously burst forth in him, 
for example: "Homo liber de nulla re minus quam de morte 
cogitat et ejus sapientia non mortis sed vitae meditatio est . . . 
Beatitudo non est virtutis praemium, sed ipsa virtus. 11 His 
view on the temporary sub specie eternitatis, .the unity of di- 
versity is eternally alive in his mind and far outstrips all his 
predecessors. For him thought was an act supremely religious 
and purely moral. And how did his age accept him? And 
should it surprise us since he died in 1677? 

1844 
June 

29 There js a most noteworthy article by S. Jordan 63 in 
Wiegand's 64 magazine on the relation of universal science to 
philosophy. Criticism which has discarded religion*, and is 
based on philosophy, must go still further and turn upon 
philosophy. The philosophical conception is the last theo- 
logical conception, which subordinates nature in all its 
aspects to spirit, which assumes reason to be prius\ which 
does not cancel fundamentally opposition between thought 



FROM THE DIARY 313 

and being by their identification. Spirit, ideas are the results 
of matter and history. In assuming that pure reason is the be- 
ginning, philosophy falls into abstraction wherein, moreover, 
it oannot stay as it is impossible for it to dispense with con- 
crete representations. We find it painful and irksome to live in 
the sphere of abstraction and -are constantly lapsing into the 
other. Philosophy wants to be a particular science of thought 
und darum zugleich Wissenschaft der Welt, well die Gesetze 
des Denkens dieselben seien mil den Weltgesetzen; dies musp 
zunachst umgekehrt werden: das Denken ist nicht anderes als 
die Welt selbst, wie sie von sich weiss, das Denken ist die 
Welt, die als Mensch sich selbst klar wird, And therefore we 
must not begin with the science of thought and deduce nature 
out of it. Philosophy is not a science by itself, instead, it should 
synthesize all sciences disunited today. 

July 

41 have been writing an article on natural philosophy for 
the new magazine 65 (and only God and Uvarov 66 know wheth- 
er it will ever see the light of day). In this connection I have 
read, or rather, glanced through Schiller's History of Philos- 
ophy, from Bacon to Leibnitz. A boring book, although it con- 
tains interesting details. How enormously it differs from the 
history by Feuerbach! Then I got hold of the famous pam- 
phlet by Fichte on the destination of man. It's a long time 
since I last read it, some dozen years or more. I don't remem- 
ber in which epoch he wrote it, but it is strange to be con- 
tent with this profession de foi, as the last word. Abstract 
speculation does not save him from scepticism; knowledge 
does not satisfy him, he wants action and faith (spontaneous 
and intuitive). But faith leads him not to the real, but rather 
to the idealistic world; true, for him this spiritual world is 
both here and jenseits, i.e., it is Hegel's sphere of the spirit 
and, in part, the religious future life, but behind it lies some 
strange desire to be not of the earth. Is it a tribute to the times, 
or the urge of a stoic, strict, moral nature? He places will 
above action. 



314 A. HER ZEN 

August 

91 have read Feuerbach on Leibnitz. 67 Germany alone 
has such tremendous awakenings ifrom its eternal slumber as 
Leibnitz, Lessing, Goethe. What immense activity, what uni- 
versality! He is interested in everything, in contact with 
everybody, concerned with everything and he sheds the light 
of his genius everywhere, his mind is wide open to the world, 
ever ready to write, to explain, to reflect. It is precisely he 
who must have expounded monadology. Spinoza, who sacrificed 
everything for philosophy, saw only the substance around 
which the world of the accidental revolves; his substance must 
be one. For Leibnitz the substance-monad is the source of ac- 
tivity, of movement; it determines itself in distinction to oth- 
ers, alive precisely in differentiation and opposition. This is 
the transition in logic from a unit to multiplicity, it is repul- 
sion from itself Science from Cartesian extension delves 
Into the substance of Spinozia; but this substance is deter- 
mined by the force of Leibnitz, living and substantial: which 
is not a single one but incalculable souls of the atom- 
monads. The monad is the ideal atom of an object, the force 
of matter, its unity; matter, (being passive, it is impossible to 
find true unity in it because it contains a multitude of parts 
which 'go on ad infinitum; and since multiplicity does not be- 
come reality except through genuine unity, I "resorted to 
atoms" understanding them to mean force, etc. He is very 
close to concepts the monad is, already, in .a certain sense, 
a concept. The vagueness of the conception of materiality and 
matter as the nexus of the monads, their medium, finally, the 
vital tie between the whole universe, reflected and in relation 
with every monad and vice versa all raises Leibnitz's view 
of nature incomparably higher than that of D-tes, B. 68 and 
Spin. In him, every drop of dew reflects that one sun which 
shines in the sky of Spinoza. 

22 Activity should have a limit lest it be dispersed that 
is the role attributed to matter by Leibnitz; matter confines 
the pure monad, it delimits the monads from each other, it is 
the passive limit of activity and, at the same time, its deter- 



FROM THE DIARY 316 

minateness. The monad continually strives to free itself of mat- 
ter, i.e., to pass over from the particular to the universal. Its 
activity, life, its soul -and body iare the essential poles; it is 
universal idealism and empiricism; the genus unity iand the 
particular. Theodicy is unsuccessful, the problem impossible, 
no matter how you approach its solution. In religion a certain 
measure of arbitrariness is always possible and considerable, 
"Science is impossible where everything is possible." The dif- 
ference between reason and madness is effaced, where then 
will science find its support? The views of people in Leibnitz' 
days were still strongly impregnated with anthropomorphism, 
by subjective theology; L. could not break loose of the in* 
fluence af his environment; he was too vigorous for this and 
too absorbed in his times. He continued the work of Spinoza 
but did not have the strength to -arrive at a detached view, ias 
Spinoza did, iand from the summits reached, remind the 
Christian world of "the category forgotten by them: the rela- 
tion of the Object to itself" (-and not to man) ; finally, I sup- 
pose that L. was reluctant to run foul of the ideas of his age; 
what 'he lacked was Spinoza's incorruptible honesty. That 
supreme integrity of language eschews not only lies but also 
those obscure or half-veiled expressions which seem to imply 
anything but what they were meant to. On the contrary, it 
strives to be explicit and to avert any misinterpretation. In- 
cidentally, in those days they knew how to set aside a modest 
corner for religion it lived there by itself, science occupying 
the rest of the heart, and there was no quarrel between them. 
Descartes made a pilgrimage on foot to Notre-Dame de Lorette 
to ikneel in prayer. He wanted help to overcome his scepti- 
cism and never to put religion to the test of reason, i. e., he 
did not want to ponder over it. Even materialists, suoh as 
Locke, were in their own way, religious, always in an incoher- 
ent and contradictory manner, like our Hegelian orthodox 
Slavophiles; Leibnitz, on the contrary, sought a live concilia- 
tion, and nothing came of it but obscurity which veiled his ex- 
cellent doctrine for his disciples. 

30 Hegel's Leben by Rosenkranz. R-z is a narrow-minded 
person and a mediocre thinker; consequently, the story is 



916 A. HERZEN 

told poorly and his view is most narrow but the book is im- 
portant for its quotations and appendices. Hegel's life is the 
life and development of his system; he lived it quite in the 
'German manner: in school, gymnasium -and universities. His 
most poetic relations were those with Holderlin; I cannot find 
any intimate ties with Schelling. Hegel outlined his system for 
the first time in 1800, -at the a>ge of thirty (he was .born in 
1770). An excellent present on the birth of the nineteenth cen- 
tury; it was then that he fell out with Schelling. The principal 
plan and the foundation of the system of that time did not 
change, but only -developed further. In some places the quota- 
tions cited .are reminiscent of a mystical influence; they abound 
in plasticity of expression, and pointed images are apparent 
everywhere contradicting Redkin, demanding that scientific 
material should be expressed in the language of pure thought, 
etc. In the essay on the philosophy of nature there is an excel- 
lent passage on the structure of the globe: (according to him 
the diversity of the elements -was undoubtedly the result of 
the past, and remained its mute witnesses; (it should be noted 
here that Hegel regarded the earth as the universe of individ- 
uality, of its elementary processes, and as the disintegration 
[Auseinanderfallen] of the external mingling of earth and 
rocks). These elements today rest indifferently side by side, 
having lost all connections, as if paralyzed. This idea is ex- 
tremely important; won't this premise allow us eventually to 
arrive at a solution of the question of why and how the planet 
was first composed of elements; what led to their formation 
into extant minerals; was it not an attempt on the part of the 
whole planet to live like a plant an attempt to live with all 
its surface?. . . 

In the chapter "Geist" Heg. then defined the family by in- 
difference between slavery and freedom. "In the natural state 
man says to woman: 'You are flesh of my flesh'; in the moral 
state he says to his fellow creature: 'you are spirit of my spirit/ 
establishing thus the equality of relations. The Philosophy of 
Right of those days is abstract and full of scholasticism; its 
foundations are not sufficiently broad and seek to justify that 
which exists. The philosophy of religion is almost wholly 



, FROM THE DIARY 317 

treated by them as it was subsequently. Abstraction and for- 
malism led it to -frightful results in -after years; for example, 
it sees the need for a nobility, as a reaction in the form of 
submission, the need for iall classes, the cowardice of the mer- 
chants, etc. To warriors who survived, it offers speculation in 
place of consolation, to compensate them for the misfortune of 
having remained alive, etc. In the philosophy of religion he 
plainly says that Protestantism is a temporary form iand that 
a new religion may arise in which the spirit, on its own 
ground, in the magnificence of its own form, will be a com- 
bination of religion and philosophy. Subsequently, he did not 
express these ideas so bluntly. On November 2, 1800, in a let- 
ter to Schelling on his system, be says, incidentally: "Ich 
frage jetzt nicht, welche Ruckkehr zum Eingreifen in das Le- 
ben der Menschen zu finden 1st." 

September 

3 . . . Hegel was the greatest representative of the revolu- 
tion which should have introduced the new conscience of 
humanity to science from alpha to omega. In life he was 
nought. It stands to reason that the time iand the country in 
which he lived were much to blame. Berlin, moreover, exer- 
cised its influence on him; in the practical world Hegel was 
a philistine. He did not scruple to iask for the protection of the 
Prussian Ministry against severe criticism printed in <a Prus- 
sian review; on the occasion of the tactless iand almost scurvy 
trick against Fries 69 he .advised that restrictions should be 
imposed on the publication of the journal. Finally, his teach- 
ing of the Philosophy of Right, did as much good and dissi- 
pated the futile and universal theoretical demagogy, .as it did 
harm by its stout defence of the existing evil and its scoffing 
at the beautiful sentiments of youth as though they were the 
worst of platitudes. 



APROPOS M. GRANOVSKY'S PUBLIC LECTURES 



LETTER TWO 

M. GRANOVSKY has concluded his course of public lectures. I 
can still hear his voice, deeply -agitated, vibnant with intense 
emotion, as he thanked his audience, and the thunder of pro- 
longed applause with which they, one and -all, expressed their 
gratitude. "I thank you once -again. I thank those who, sym- 
pathizing with me, shared my sincere scientific convictions, 
and equally those who, while differing with me, frankly and 
fairly voiced their disagreement!' 1 With these splendid words 
Granovsky concluded his course of lectures. You remember 
that after the first lecture I did not hesitate to call this course 
an event worthy of notice. Now I have some justification in 
saying that I was not mistaken. The interest aroused by 
M. Granovsky's lectures continuously heightened; his chair was 
invariably surrounded by a triple tier of ladies, and note that 
the lecturer treated his subject with all the seriousness which 
science -demands, without strewing unnecessary flowers, or 
sacrificing depth for pleasing lightness. And I think that he 
could not have better expressed his respect and gratitude to 
the ladies who attended his lectures and they were grateful 
to him for it. Thank God the days are passing for that humi- 
liating attention to woman when, alongside a serious exposi- 
tion of science, there existed, especially for her -benefit, an in- 
tentional distortion of the subject, for the masculine mind 
alone was considered capable of deep thought. 

Moscow society was given a taste, in the university halls, 
of a new pleasure, both stimulating and vastly absorbing; the 
teaching staff found open to them further possibility of actions 
and new paths to general sympathy. I am certain that, thanks 



APROPOS M. GRANOVSKY'S PUBLIC LECTURES 319 

to the fine initiative of Granovsky, public lectures of no less 
general interest will be held in our university. They will mark 
a new rapprochement between the city iand the university. In 
our country science cannot be separated from life: that is lalien 
to our character. And every rapprochement -between the univer- 
sity iand society is of equal significance and importance to both 
sides. Teaching, if it is to win general public sympathy, must 
purify itself of the formalism of the school bench; it must 
emerge out of the cold isolation of dry, one-sided -abstractions 
and face the realities of life; must be stirred by its problems 
and guided by its 'aspirations. Society must forget its -daily 
humdrum life and rise to the level of general interest in order 
to pay heed to what is taught. It is ripe for this. It is attuned 
correctly: all that is vital and sympathetical will not fail to 
find recognition in it. The lectures by Granovsky tare the best 
proof thereof. Such public lectures are a novelty here. It is 
quite possible that some of the laudience at first came without 
serious intentions, for the novelty of the thing; but -after the 
first three of four lectures the audience was completely won 
over and every tfiace expressed absorbed, wrapt (attention. This 
sympathy was in turn a powerful stimulus to the lecture. A 
necessary magnetic tie active on both sides is always established 
between the audience and the lecturer (if the one can real- 
ly be said to listen and the other to lecture). At the beginning 
they seem strangers, but contact is gradually effected and 
when both grow aware of it, reciprocal influence gathers 
strength; words win the audience, and the audience, merging 
into a spiritual whole, imparts fire to the speaker. I shall say 
frankly, and I know that Granovsky will not take offence at 
my words: .he visibly developed as his course proceeded; he 
grew, gaining in strength, on the lecture platform. His audi- 
ences did not lag behind him. The audience and the lecturer 
parted as -friends; deeply touched, feeling a profound respect 
for each other, they parted with tears in their eyes. 

What principally characterizes Granovsky's course is the 
heights to which all things human rise, the sympathy, ever 
ready of response, for all that is alive, vigorous and poetic, 
a vast, all-embracing love for all that is nascent, which he 
welcomes joyously, and a love for the dying which he buries 



320 A. HER ZEN 

mournfully. Never did a hateful word escape him in his lec- 
tures; he passed coffins and opened them, without insulting the 
dead. The audacious thought of correcting the -majestic course 
of the life of mankind was far from his scientific views; he re- 
spected the objective significance of events in everything and 
only -attempted to -discover their meaning. It seems to me that 
it was precisely this method of lecturing that aroused such a 
strong sympathy for Granovsky's lectures in society. To be 
able to find lovingly what is kindred, human, no matter what 
the century, the nation, the manifestations; never to disown 
our brothers, no matter what tatters they appear in, no mat- 
ter how immature the age we found them in; to discern the 
eternal principle, that is to say, the eternal aim through the 
ephemeral shadows this is a great thing for a historian to be 
able to do. Often as I listened to Granovsky I vividly saw 
Horatio, his heart breaking, telling the story of Ha-mlet near 
the bier on which his body rested. Horatio was far from the 
thought of resurrecting the prince Hamlet's death for him 
was an event; through his tears he pointed to young Fortin- 
bras who was to inherit the bloody throne; he could not but 
mourn the deceased. The same is true of Granovsky's sym- 
pathy for the Middle Ages. He did not seek to turn back the 
wheels of time. It is love and sympathy for the vanquished 
that makes the victory complete. Immobile ghosts of the past, 
left by the world on the new soil, oan least of all withstand 
the warm breath of love; they dissolve into the roseate mois- 
ture which quenches the thirst of new generations. But this love 
is not easy to attain. 

Russian historians are in a position which greatly facilitates 
an objective, sympathetic view of Western history. Our un- 
trammelled thoughts, while elucidating the events of the 
Middle Ages, can maintain the heights of gentleness and for- 
bearance, necessary in order to conciliate and love all that it 
treats: we were alien to the feudal life of Europe. We neither 
acquired that epoch's chattels, nor its blemishes. We are under 
oath, persons from another realm; we cannot take sides. That 
is not true for the German; he has to contend with his mem- 
ories; he has a feeling of kinship and of hate for it; he will 
either collapse burdened by a rich heritage or else he must re- 



APROPOS M. GRANOVSKY'S PUBLIC LECTURES 321 

nounce his parents. The past of Europe is still talive to him: 
on entering the arena of history he oannot retain a judicial 
aloofness; instead of harbouring ia wholesome warmth his soul 
is either overcome by passion or else is consumed by scathing 
and relentless criticism. We must not deceive ourselves: this 
choler, this criticism is also ia form of love tout love carried to 
an extreme, jealous, vengeful, -and wounded. The passionate 
partiality in the history of the West is excusable in a West- 
erner but would be strange in a Russian. How can ia person 
drawn into the deep slough of events, into their very vortex, 
be a steady and impartial spectator? Would not that be either 
beneath or above the dignity of man? Would that not demand 
either a Talleyrand or a Goethe? 71 Sine ira et studio! You do 
not really believe that Tacitus wrote sine ira? I repeat what 
I wrote in my first letter: no one is in a better position than 
the Russian to be more objective in regard to the past of 
Europe. Of course, in order to benefit by it, it is not enough 
to be simply Russian; one must also attain the zenith of 
human development; be not exclusively Russian, that is to say, 
consider oneself not as opposite to Western Europe, but as 
fraternally bound to it. The conception of fraternity does not 
erase the distinctive traits of each brother, yet these traits 
must not make enemies of them, for then their bonds of broth- 
erhood would be destroyed. In repulsing what we are op- 
posed to, we eliminate the possibility of finding a vantage 
point; enmity at bottom is subjective. To be in opposition 
means to refuse to understand what we are opposed to be- 
cause to understand means precisely to cancel the opposites. 
So long as thought fearfully repulses the opposite, it will be 
limited by it as something alien which will become a stum- 
bling-block in its path. It is said in our code: "If a judge is an 
enemy of the plaintiff and a friend of the defendant, then neither 
the plaintiff nor the defendant may be judged by that judge." 72 It 
is very easy for us to arrive at this legal independence. We 
need only desire and know how to profit by our position. The 
past of Europe arouses in us neither regret nor remorse; it 
constitutes a great interest for us of another order. 

211157 



322 A. HER ZEN 

Dich stort nicht ini Innern 
Zu lebendiger Zeit 
Unnutzes Erinnern 
Und vergeblicher Streit. 

Goethe 

Granovsky (in spite of the reproaches levelled -at him as he 
started his course) had -an excellent understanding of what 
language he should use when treating Western questions. 
Wandering through the catacombs of 'alien ancestors, he never 
once said >a single word, never made -a single allusion to the 
present quarrels of their heirs. 73 He took up the -dusty charter 
of the Middle Ages not in order to find in it a support for him- 
self, for his own opinions; he had no need of the investiture 
of the Middle Ages, for he stood on different grounds. This is 
what it was that lent his lectures their good faith and sincer- 
ity, that breadth of view so rarely to be found in history; 
events, not cramped by <any personal theory, took on life in 
his recital. I frequently had the occasion to hear ridiculous 
questions posed: why did he not express himself more plainly? 
What was it he wanted to prove? What was his aim? He loved 
feudalism yet rejoiced <at its downfall, etc. All these questions, 
incidentally, have more to them than one might think: all 
things living are extremely elusive precisely because they eon- 
tain, in one -active process, a countless number of elements <and 
aspects. The living is stirred into consciousness only by means 
of speculation or contemplation, while good sense can only 
see disorder in them life slips out of its rough hands. The 
manifold aspects of life arouse fear 'and boredom in the nar- 
row-minded: they -must needs have da posit if \ Thus, polypuses, 
deprived of the possibility of locomotion, stick -all their lives 
to one side of a stone and feed on the moss that covers it. 
These spineless minds would find it iany number of times 
easier to understand history marshalled into line, from anj 
one point of view, but Granovsky is too much the historian at 
heart to fall into pointless one-sidedness iand not to profit by 
the excellence of his position. 



APROPOS M. GRANOVSKY'S PUBLIC LECTURES 323 

History is very easily made ia party weapon. Events were 
mute and obscure; people of today interpret them as they like. 
For the past to become known it must pass through the mouth 
of the present generation which frequently desires to iact not 
merely -as a mouthpiece for 'alien speech, but as a prompter. It 
makes the past bear false witness in its own interest. Such 
evocation of the past from the grave is degrading but some 
excuse can be found for these necromantic attempts, under 
certain circumstances: feudalism, the papal power, the aristoc- 
racy, the middle estates and others are not merely subjects 
for study and science for the West but party banners, ques- 
tions of life or death. The past order of things has in Europe 
its accredited attorneys who proceed with the case; but we are 
less, indeed -far less, involved in it than even the North Amer- 
ican States. These tare not our quarrels, nor conflicts; we enter 
into contact with Europe not in the name of its private and 
past interests, but rather in the name of the great society of 
humanity for which both of us strove. Our sympathy is, 'ac- 
tually, a presentiment of the future which will absorb everything 
extreme be it the Roman-German or the Slav. 

Granovsky has steered clear of another reef yet 'more dan- 
gerous than a biased view on feudal events: acquainted as he 
was with the writings of the great German thinkers, he none- 
theless remained independent. He gave -an excellent definition 
of the actual state of the philosophy of history at the second 
lecture, without confining its living development to any petri- 
fying formula; Granovsky views the modern state of li'fe as a 
great historical moment which it was impossible not to be 
aware of or to avoid with impunity; just as it is impossible to 
remain in it for all time, without becoming paralyzed. To make 
plain the depth of treatment of history by our lecturer, it is 
sufficient to say that he regards history as a normally develop- 
ing organism; nowhere did he subordinate events to the for- 
mal law of necessity or to artificial lines of demarcation. In 
his exposition necessity was some secret thought of the epoch; 
its presence could be sensed far in the background, as some 
Deus impticitus, giving full scope to the free play of life. The 
greatest thinkers of Germany could not resist the temptation 
to impose on history an artificial structure, based on the in- 

21* 



824 A. HERZEN 

sufficiency of documents and one-sided theories. And no won- 
der: speculative thought was more >akin to their spirit than a 
living historical viewpoint. 74 That abstract and unpleasant 
necessity was reduced to an absurdity in the works of Cousin, 
very well known in his time. Cousin is the Nemesis who chas- 
tises the Germans for their love for the abstract, for dry for- 
malism. The Germans themselves must have burst out laugh- 
ing when they read to what lengths they had led the kind and 
unsophisticated Gaul who had trusted them. The author under- 
stood necessity so superficially that he all but deduced Alexan- 
der of Macedon's crooked neck from the general formula of the 
development of mankind. That was the reaction to Voltaire's 
view, which, on the contrary, made the fate of the world de- 
pend on the form of Cleopatra's nose. 

Granovsky promises to publish his course of lectures; when 
I send you the book I shall try to analyze the course itself 
and to discuss it in detail. 75 Permit me now to finish. I hope 
you will have no objection to that. 



PUBLIC LECTURES 
BY PROFESSOR RULYE 7 ' 



Ignorance of nature is supreme ingratitude. 

Pliny the Elder 

ONE OF THE PRINCIPAL demands of our time is the circulation 
of authentic iand useful data on natural science. Though abun- 
dant in science, such data are scarce in society. They should 
be launched on the stream of the public consciousness, should 
be made accessible, should be rendered as alive and real as 
nature with ia language as clear as the one in which she un- 
folds the infinite riches of her essence in grand and harmonious 
simplicity. We believe it is nearly impossible to cultivate a 
really strong mental activity without natural science. No other 
branch of knowledge trains the mind to advance so firmly and 
steadily, to submit so readily to the truth, to work conscientious- 
ly and, what is more important, to accept conscientiously 
the consequences that follow. Beginning with natural science, 
we would cleanse the minds of the young of prejudices, enable 
them to grow up on healthy spiritual food and, when strength- 
ened and fully equipped, show them the world of man and 
history from which the doors lead straight to action, to partic- 
ipation in the issues of the day. This idea certainly is not new. 
Rabelais who keenly understood the terrible harm that scholas- 
ticism wrought upon the development of the mind, based the 
education of Gargantua on natural science. Bacon sought to 
base the education of all mankind on natural science: In- 
stauratio magna rests on the return of the mind to nature, to 
observation. By his exceptional preference for natural science 
Bacon sought to restore the function of thought suppressed by 
medieval metaphysics. He saw no other means of cleansing 
the contemporary minds of false notions and prejudices ac- 
crued for centuries than by directing them to nature with its 
immutable laws, with its recalcitrance to scholasticisms and 



326 A. II E R Z E N 

its readiness to reveal itself to logic. The scientific world, es- 
pecially in Britain and France, well understood the challenge 
of Baron Verulam, the first of that continuous line of great 
men who have ploughed the broad fields of natural science in 
all directions. 

But the fruits of their enquiry, the results of long and 'ar- 
duous Labours have remained within the academic walls, have 
not brought the orthopedic cure to twisted understanding as 
might have been expected.* The education of the cultivated 
classes throughout Europe has touched little upon the natural 
sciences. It has continued to be influenced by a sort of rhetor- 
ical-philological schooling (in the strictest sense of the word); 
it has remained an education of the memory rather than of 
reason, an education of the learning of words -and not of con- 
ceptions, a learning of style and not of thought, an education 
by authority and not by self-applioation; rhetorics and formal- 
ism continue to -dislodge nature as of old. Such growth nearly 
always leads to mental arrogance, to contempt for everything 
natural -and healthy, to preference for everything exaggerated 
and forced. Ideas and notions are as previously inoculated at 
a time of spiritual immaturity. Attaining to consciousness, 
man finds the scar on his arm, a sum of ready-made truths 
and setting on his way, simple-heartedly accepts the one and 
the other as an accomplished fact. There is no stronger 
remedy against this false, harmful and lop-sided education 
than the general spread of natural science at its present stage. 
But unfortunately the great truths, the great discoveries fol- 
lowing rapidly in natural science do not penetrate the stream 
of circulating information. And if some part of them do come 
before the public they appear in such a scant and inaccurate 
form that people cram these predigested ideas into their minds 
as they did all other scholastic knowledge. The French have 
done more than anyone to popularize the natural sciences, but 
their efforts have been constantly wrecked on the thick crust 
of prejudice. There has been no complete success, incidentally, 
because the greater part of the experiments in popular expo- 



* It is understood that practical applications are deliberately set 



PUBLIC LECTURES BY PROFESSOR RULYE 327 

sition was marred by concessions, rhetorics, hollow phrases 
and poor language. 

The prejudices with which we have grown up include oijr 
mode of expression and understanding. The very words insinu- 
ate notions which iare not only inaccurate, but directly oppo- 
site to the meaning. Our imagination is so corrupted by and 
saturated with metaphysics that we have lost the ability to 
express in -a simple and straightforward way the events of the 
physical world without unconsciously introducing false notions 
by our very mode of expression, confusing the metaphor with 
the thing it stands for, separating in words what is in reality 
joined. Science itself has 'adopted this false language: that is 
why everything it tells is so confused -and difficult. Though 
not so harmful to science, this language does most of its harm 
to the public. The scientist accepts the glossary as ia symbol 
under which he crowds ian entire row of phenomena iand prob- 
lems, like -a mathematician. Society, on the other hand, has 
a blind faith in words evidence a! its splendid confidence in 
speech so that man implicitly trusts the word -even when it 
is abused. No less implicit is his trust in science and he takes 
its word not as a lame hint, but as an expression which fully 
exhausts the facts. Let us recollect, for example, that science -as- 
sumes any physical phenomenon, the cause of which is un- 
known, to be the manifestation of a special force and by 
scholastic dialectics endows it with identity so concretely that 
it is completely divorced from substance (such is the fashion- 
able metabolic force or catalytic force). The mathematician 
here would have conscientiously set down an x so that every- 
body should know it as an unknown quantity. But the intro- 
duction of a new force suggests that it is a known quantity; 
to complete the confusion, these false expressions are added 
to false moral maxims which have been repeated through the 
ages without analysis, without criticism and which put every- 
thing in an utterly 'false light. 

For the sake of clarity let me give an example. Linnaeus 
was a great man in the full sense of the word. But, influenced 
by his century like all men, great or small, he was carried 
away by two scholastic prejudices and committed two oppo- 
site errors. He defined man as a species of the genus of mon- 



323 A. HERZEN 

key and set the vampire alongside, the latter an unpardon- 
able zoological error, the former an even less pardonable log- 
ical error. As we shall presently see, Linnaeus had no idea of 
humiliating man by relating him with the monkey. Under the 
influence of scholasticism he separated the man from the body 
to such an extent that he thought it possible to treat of his 
form and shape without scruples. Bracketing man's body with 
that of the bat, Linnaeus exclaimed: "How despicable man 
would be if he had not risen above all that is humanl" Com- 
pare this with Epictetus: "Homo sum, humani nihit a me alie- 
num puto." Linnaeus's phrase, like all phrases when they are 
merely phrases, could have well been forgotten, overshadowed 
by his great services but unfortunately it dovetails perfectly 
with the scholastic-romantic view; it is obscure and soulful 
and precisely for that reason is passed on from generation to 
generation. Only last year, in fact, Flourens, one of the famous 
French professors, went into raptures over this outburst of 
Linnaeus and declared that this sentence alone was sufficient 
to stamp him as a genius. We must confess that in this sen- 
tence we have discerned only an uneasy conscience and the 
desire to atone for crass materialism with crass spiritualism. 
The two opposite delusions left unreconciled are far from con- 
stituting the truth. Man no doubt should reject everything 
human if everything human signifies nothing more than the 
distinctive features of a two-handed, tailless monkey called 
homo. But who indeed authorized Linnaeus to make an animal 
out of man for the sole reason that he possesses everything 
which the animal has. Having labelled him sapiens, why has 
he not separated man from the animal in the name of what 
man possesses and the animal does not? What childish logic! 
If man is to be what he ought to be by rejecting everything 
human, how much of the human will remain in the residue? 
There is either a mistake somewhere or there is sheer impos- 
sibility. What will be left is probably not human, but animal, 
and then how rise above oneself? It is something like lifting 
oneself to increase in stature. 

That maxim by Linnaeus is taken at random from thousands 
of similar and worse. They have all made their way into sci- 
entific discourse and, seemingly repeated out of duty or cour- 



PUBLIC LECTURES BY PROFESSOR RULYE 329 

tesy, lare hampering a clear and straightforward understand- 
ing of history by their historical phantasmagoria. Such argu- 
ments and prejudices in aggregate constitute a complete 
theory for an absurd conception of nature >and its phenomena. 
Instead of constantly exposing the absurdity of such concep- 
tions, the usual attempts at popularization tend to humour 
them like illiterate nursemaids crooning baby talk to babies. 
But all this is drawing to ia close. Like Pliny before him, Hum- 
boldt too gave the heading of Kosmos 77 to his last book tand 
not without reason. 

Even ia superficial survey of the doings of natural science 
will astonishingly reveal a new spirit, distinct, profound and 
equally removed from absurd materialism and dreamy spirit- 
ualism. A popular exposition of this new view of life and 
nature is of exceptional importance and it is this that impels 
us to speak of the public lectures of Monsieur Rulye, to whom 
we now turn directly. 

For his subject matter Monsieur Rulye has chosen the life 
and habits of animals, or as he himself had put it, the psychol- 
ogy of animals. Zoology at its highest stage is bound to pass 
into psychology. The main and distinctive feature essential 
to the animal kingdom is the development of psychic 
faculties, consciousness and will. There is no need to say 
how fascinating is the story of the sequence of various mani- 
festations of the inner life from crude, indispensable 
instinct and obscure urges to seek food and the subcon- 
scious need for self-preservation up to reason at the lowest 
stage, the correlation of the means and the end, a certain 
degree of consciousness and enjoyment in itself. Throughout 
the story most inteiesting questions, observations, researches, 
profound truths of natural science and even of philosophy 
clamour for attention. The choice of subject testifies to the lec- 
turer's vivid understanding and daring. New paths had to be 
discovered here, since animal psychology has received incom- 
parably less attention from the naturalists than animal struc- 
ture. Animal psychology must round out and consummate 
comparative anatomy and physiology* It must represent the 
prehuman phenomenology of evolving consciousness; and it 
terminates at the source of human psychology, into which it 



330 A. HER ZEN 

flows like venous blood into the lungs, to be sublimated and 
course on as red blood through the arteries of history. The pro- 
gress of the animal is the progress of its body, its history, a 
plastic development of organs from the polypus to the mon- 
key; the progress of man is the progress of thought iand not 
of body: the latter can progress no further. But it is barely 
possible to deliver ia scientific exposition on the psychology of 
animals -at the present state of natural science. All the more, 
therefore, should -an 'attempt to do so be respected, especially 
if it is as successful .as Monsieur Rulye's lectures. 

Zoology has in the main been concerned with the systema- 
tization and -distribution of -animals; and classification, im- 
portant -as it may be, is not paramount. The great success of 
Linnaeus's botanical classification tempted zoology from its 
path and, in Cuvier's* apt words, checked its progress by con- 
centrating all attention -and -all works upon 'artificial systems 
and descriptions of distinctions. It was against this dead and 
purely formal tendency that Buffon rebelled. He had an enor- 
mous advantage over a great part of his contemporary natu- 
ralists: he had no knowledge of the natural sciences at all. 
Having become the director of Jardin des Plantes, he first con- 
ceived a passion for nature and then began to study it in his 
own way, bringing into research deep reflection, a live m-aji- 
ner of thinking quite independently of school prejudices and 
the deadening routine which lames success. 78 Buffon dreaded 
arrangement and classification to excess. His subject matter 
was animals in all manifestations, their anatomy and habits, 
their exterior and their cravings. For such a study of animals 
it was not enough to go to the museum to collate the forms, 
to view only the traces of life, to observe their points of dif- 
ference and similarity. It was necessary to go to the zoo, to 
the stables, to the poultry farms, to the woods and to the fields, 
to become a fisherman; in short, it was necessary to do what 
Audubon had done for American ornithology. Buffon had no 
possibility to put his studies of nature into scientific form: 
there was insufficient material and the cast of his genius had 
no turn for methodology. For this reason probably, science did 



* G. Cuvier, Histoire des Sciences Naturelles, t. 1, p. 301. -A.M. 



PUBLIC LECTURES BY PROFESSOR RULYE ,331 

not travel his path, though it had set out in the direction he 
bad indicated. When Buffon had put Daubenton on to the 
anatomy of animals, comparative anatomy absorbed all at- 
tention. 

Ten years had not passed -after Buffon's death when zoology 
parted with him and with Linnaeus. On the 21st of the Floreal 
in the third year of the Republic an unknown young naturalist 
attacked Linnaeus's system at a session of the institute. There 
was something powerful, firm, -deliberate and sharp about his 
words. The idea of the four types* in the animal kingdom and 
the (arrangement of animals not according to distinctions, but 
all-round consideration of all systems <and all organs amazed 
his listeners. This man was destined considerably to advance 
zoology. He demanded anatomy, the collation of parts, the dis- 
closure of their interrelation; his works were numerous, his 
perspicacity enormous. Every remark of his contributed a new 
idea, every collation of two analogues more and more disclosed 
the possibility of the general theory of "correct analysis" where- 
by it is possible, with definitely fixed conditions of existence (so 
Cuvier called the final causes), to arrive at the forms and their 
functions.** The first brilliant experiment calculated to realize 
these first principles in practice, enabled Cuvier to advance 
from the reconstruction of an animal from a single bone to 
the actual reconstruction of the fossil world. The resurrection 
of the antediluvian -animals was the highest triumph of com- 
parative -anatomy. Camper's 79 dreams began to come true, 
comparative anatomy was becoming science. In his Palaeonto- 
graphy Cuvier declared (p. 90): 

"An organic being is ia whole, self-contained system whose 
parts necessarily correspond to each other and supplement one 
another in the achievement of a common end. From this it 
should be inferred that every part taken separately is repre- 
sentative of all the others. If the digestive tract is so consti- 
tuted as to be intended exclusively to digest raw meat, the 
formation of the jaws must be peculiar to this function, as also 
the long claws with which to seize and rend the prey, the 



* Vertebrae, mollusks, jointed and star-shaped. A. H. 
** R&gne animal, Introduction. A.M. 



332 A. HERZEN 

fangs and the sinuous muscles for running, and the 'acute 
sense of smell and keen sight; even the brain must be de- 
veloped in a definite way to furnish the creature with cun* 
ning," etc.* 

What breadth of view and what ia triumph of Bacon's in- 
duction! 

Nevertheless, the exclusively anatomical tendency had its 
disadvantages which the genius of Cuvier set at nought, but 
which came to the surface in many of his followers. Anatomy 
accustoms us to regard the flowing current, the precipitous 
process of life as static; it teaches us to view not the living 
being, but its body -and to regard it as something passive, as a 
finished result. But in the language of life the finished results 
mean death. Life is action, perpetual action, the whirlwind and 
the vortex, as Cuvier called it. Furthermore, an anatomical, i.e., 
descriptive study of an animal's body is nothing other than 
a more highly developed study of external marks. To say that 
the viscera of an animal are the other side of its exterior is 
no play of words. The animal's exterior, its outward side,** 
is -a revelation of the interior; but all of its inner parts are in 
the same way a manifestation of something still more inner; 
and that innermost element is life itself, action itself, which 
all parts, both inside and outside, equally serve as organs. 
The fact is that neither a study of the exterior alone nor of 
anatomy alone gives a complete knowledge of an animal. 80 
The great Goethe was the first to introduce the element of 
motion into comparative anatomy. He demonstrated the pos- 

* Aristotle was preoccupied with comparative anatomy, though in a 
desultory manner. His researches, therefore, could yield no complete 
whole. The ancients, however, very well understood the relation between 
form and content in an organism. Xenophon says in his 'AovzTtopvripupata 
(Book I, Chapter IV) what human achievement could derive from a bull 
inhabited by a human spirit and what accomplishment from a bull if it 
had human hands. A.H. 

** The physiognomy of an animal (habitus) is so sharply defined that 
a glance will suffice to identify the character and the degree of develop- 
ment of the genus to which it belongs: take the visage of a tiger or a 
camel, for example. The internal aspect is not so characteristic for this 
very reason: an animal's exterior is its label, as it were; nature seeks to 
manifest everything implicit in the soul and does so by medium of those 
parts which are exposed to the external world. A.H. 



PUBLIC LECTURES BY PROFESSOR RULYE 333 

sibility of tracing the architectonics of .an organism in its 
origination and gradual development: the laws he discovered 
on the transformation of the parts of ia grain into seed-lobes, 
stalk, buds -and leaves and the further modification of the 
leaves into all the parts of a flower led directly to ian attempt 
<at the genetic development of the -animal's parts. Goethe him- 
self worked much on osteology. Occupied with this subject, he 
was strolling through .an abandoned graveyard in Italy when 
he oame upon a skull lying beside its vertebrae and he was 
struck with the idea, which afterwards took its rightful place 
in osteology, that the head is nothing but the result of some 
speci-al development of several vertebrae. Goethe's conception, 
however, remained morphology: a -discourse on the geometrical 
development of the forms, as it were. He gave no thought to 
the contents, the material developing and constantly varying 
with the variation of the forms, 

If the scope of this -article had permitted we should have 
dwelt on two great attempts that left -a lasting mark. We are 
referring to Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire and Oken. The former's 
conception of the single type, 81 of embryology and teratology, 
iand the letter's attempt at thorough classification brought 
zoology near to what it had been striving for, to the transi- 
tion from morphology to physiology, the great sea gathering 
unto itself all the separate tributaries of the science of organic 
bodies in order to reduce them to chemistry, physics and me- 
chanics, or to put it simply, to the physiology of the mineral 
world. "The palm of natural science," says Baer, "will go to 
him who will reduce all the phenomena of a nascent organ- 
ism to the universal forces. But the tree of whose wood the 
cradle of this man will be made has yet to be grown.* We, on 
the contrary, believe that this tree has not only fully grown, 
but that the cradle stands ready. Vigorous activity is evident 
in all spheres of the natural sciences: Dumas, 82 Liebig, Ras- 
pail** on the one hand, and Valentin, Wagner, Magendie on 



* K. E. Baer, Entwicktungsgeschichte der Tiere, S. 22. A.H. 

** We were recently surprised to find a 'coarse vituperative article 

against Raspail in a St. Petersburg newspaper. It should not be supposed 

that the cause was of a personal nature. On the other hand, chemistry 

could not serve as an object of discord either: judging by the article the 



334 A. HERZEN 

the other, have given to natural science a new character, 
deeply realistic, distinct and with the correct approach to 
problems. Every magazine and -pamphlet testifies to seething 
activity. Everything has been fragmentary and particularized 
so far, but all is being cemented by the unity of direction, the 
unity of spirit pervading all sound works of science. But if 
the task of physiology really consists in discovering within 
the organic process the highest -development of chemism and 
with the latter the lowest stage of life, if it cannot descend 
from its chemical-physical basis, then it will pass through its 
top branches into a completely different world: the brain as 
an organ of the higher faculties, when considered in its func- 
tions, leads -directly to a study of the relations between the 
moral and the physical aspects and thereby to psychology. At 
this point questions may arise which lie beyond the compe- 
tence of physics and chemistry, questions which could be 
solved only by philosophic thought. 

Perfectly aware that it is impossible to give a scientific ex- 
position of animal psychology at the present state of science, 
Monsieur Rulye has chosen the Buffon manner of putting 
things. His account gf instincts and reason, of the sagacity 
of animals and their habits was vivid, fresh and well support- 
ed by abundant facts at his disposal. The professor is well 
known at the Moscow University for his contributions to pale- 
ontology. In his words, in his constant defence of the animal, 
it was pleasant to see some restoration of the dignity of crea- 
tures insulted by man's pride even in theory. We beg leave to 
give our opinion on the theories and views of Monsieur Rulye 
in a later article. 84 Just now, we shall confine ourselves to the ex- 
pression of a wish which occurred to us several times while lis- 
tening to the absorbing report of the scientist. A general effect 
is lacking. This, in our opinion, results from the order chosen 
by the professor. If, instead of passing successively from one 
psychic aspect of animal life to another, he had unfolded the 



author seemed quite innocent of a knowledge of chemistry. Raspail's ser- 
vices fn organic chemistry, microscopic investigations, and physiology 
are well known to all educated people and are resnccted even by those 
who disagree with his hypotheses and theories. 83 - A.H. 



PUBLIC LECTURES BY PROFESSOR RULYE 335 

psychic 'activity of the 'animal -kingdom in genetic order as 
it develops from the lowest classes to the mammals there 
would have been more wholeness and the history of psychic 
progress would have been brought home to the listeners in its 
direct relation to the form. This, too, would have given the pro- 
fessor the occasion lo acquaint his audience with these forms, 
these instruments of psychic life which, evolving constantly 
in -all directions, strive nevertheless by thousands of w.ays 
towards one goal, ever preserving -a correct proportion between 
a degree in the development of psychic activity, the organ iand 
the environment. 



FROM THE OTHER SHORE 85 



TO MY SON, ALEXANDER 8 * 

SASHA, MY DEAR BOY, 

I 'dedicate this book to you because I have written nothing 
better and, in all likelihood, never shall; because I love this 
book as a testimonial* of the struggle in which I have sacrificed 
much, but not ihe courtage to know; because, finally, I am 
not in the least afraid to turn over into your adolescent hands 
this protest, in places impetuous, of an independent personal- 
ity, against views that 'are obsolete, slavish and false, tagainst 
preposterous idols which do not belong to our times but still 
linger among us, interfering with some and frightening others. 

I do not want to deceive you: know the truth as I know it. 
Learn this truth without experiencing either the tormenting 
errors or the deadening disillusionments, but simply by the 
right of inheritance. 

You, too, will have to face and to solve different conflicts. 
You will have your share of hardships, and of l-abour. You are 
fifteen years old and you have already felt the impact of ter- 
rible blows. 

Do not search for (any solutions in this book. You will not 
find them. Indeed, the period possesses none. That which has 
been decided is finished; while the coming revolution is only 
in its infancy. 

We do not build, we destroy; we do not proclaim new dis- 
coveries but discard old falsehoods. The man of today, that 
unhappy pontifex maximus, only lays the bridge; some stnan- 
ger, belonging to the future, will pass over it. You, perhaps, 
will see it. Don't stay behind on this shore. Better perish with 
the revolution than seek safety in the .alms-house of reaction. 

The religion of the revolution, of the great social reforma- 
tion, is the only religion which I bequeath to you. It has no 



FROM THE OTHER SHORE 337 

other paradise or rewards but your -sense of right, your own 

conscience When the time comes go back home, to our 

own people, to preach it. Once there was a time when they ap- 
preciated my speech and, perhaps, they will remember me. 

I give you my blessing on this path in the name of human 
reason, personal freedom and fraternal love. 

Your father 
Twickenham, January 1, 1855 

Vom andern Ufer is the first book which I published in the 
West. The series of articles which it contained were written 
in Russian in 1848 and 1849. I dictated them in German to 
the young writer Kapp. 87 

There is much in it that is no longer new today.* Five 
terrible years have taught something to the most stubborn of 
people, to the most impenitent sinners on our shore. At the 
beginning of 1850 my book made -a great stir in Germany; it 
was praised and criticized fiercely. And while people like Julius 
Frocbel, Jacobi and Fallmerayer 88 were more than flattering, 
others, both talented and conscientious, attacked it fiercely. 

I was accused of preaching the gospel of despair, of igno- 
rance of the people, of being depit amoureux of the revolution, 
of lack of respect for democracy, for the masses, for Europe. 

December 2 89 was a more telling answer than I could have 
given. 

In 1852 I met in London Solger, 90 the wittiest of my op- 
ponents. He was hurriedly packing to go to America. There was 
nothing, he thought, for him to do in Europe. "Circumstances," 
I remarked, "seem to have convinced you that I was not 
altogether wrong." "I didn't need that much to realize that 
I had written a good deal of nonsense then," replied Solger 
laughing good-naturedly. 

In spite of this comforting admission, the general consensus 
of opinion, the impression that prevailed, was rather against 



* I have also included three articles printed in magazines and intend- 
ed for the second edition suppressed by the German censors. These were: 
"Epilogue," "Omnia mea mecum porto" and "Donoso Cortes." I replaced 
them by a short article on Russia written for foreigners. A.M. 

221157 



338 A. HER ZEN 

me than otherwise. Does not this irritability betray the ap- 
proach of danger, a fear of the future, a desire to conceal one's 
impotence and -a capricious, fossilized old age? 

Strange is the fate of the Russians, these "mutes" <as Mi- 
chelet 91 called them: they see further than their neighbours, 
see things in more sombre colours and voice their opinions 
more outspokenly. 

One of our compatriots wrote the following long before I 
did: "Who has done more than we to glorify the superior ad- 
vantages of the eighteenth century, the light of its philosophy, 
the refinement of its manners, the spread of the social spirit, 
the institution of the closest -and friendliest ties between na- 
tions, a mild form of government? Although some black clouds 
still obscure the horizon of mankind, yet a bright nay of hope 
gilds its borders. . . . 

We held that the end of our century would see the last of the 
chief miseries of mankind and thought it would mark the 
union of theory and practice, of speculative thought and 

activity What has happened to this promising system 

today? It has completely collapsed; the eighteenth century is 
drawing to -a close and the poor philanthropist measures off the 
two paces of his grave, with a disillusioned and broken heart, 
to close his eyes for ever! 

"Who could have expected or foreseen it? Where iare the 
people we once loved? Where are the fruits of science and 
wisdom? Age of enlightenment, I do not recognize you! In 
blood -and flames, amidst murders -and destruction, I do not 
recognize you! 

"The misanthropes are triumphant. Here is the fruit of your 
enlightenment, they say. Here iare the fruits of your science. 
Let philosophy perish! And the unfortunate man left without 
country, bereft of >a home, a father, a son or -a friend, repeats 
after him: let it perish! 

"Bloodshed cannot last for ever. I am certain that the hand 
brandishing the sword will tire; that the sulphur -and saltpetre 
in the earth will be exhausted, that the thunder will grow 
silent: peace will descend sooner or later, but what will it be 
like? What if it is the silence of the grave, cold and 
gloomy?. . . 



FROM THE OTHER SHORE 339 

"The fall of science seems to me to be not only possible, 
but even inevitable, nay, imminent. When this magnificent 
building crumbles 'and its benificent lights tare extinguished, 
what tare we to expect? The prospect terrifies me and my heart 
trembles. Gnanted that some sparks will remain smouldering 
under the -ashes; granted also that some people will find them 
and use them to light up their quiet, solitary retreats yet 
what will happen to the world? 

"I hide my face. 

"Gan it be that the human race has attained in our day 
the summit of enlightenment -and must iagain be plunged In 
barbarity, only again, little by little, to rise out of it like the 
Sisyphean rock which, carried to the summit of the mountain, 
rolled down by its own weight, and had iagain to be carried 
up the mountain by the hand of the everlasting toilerl What 
ia siad picture! 

"Now it seems to me that the chronicles themselves bear 
out the plausibility of this opinion. We hardly know the mames 
of ancient Asiatic peoples 'and kingdoms but, to judge from 
some historical fragments, we may assume that they 
were not barbarians. The kingdoms were destroyed, the people 
vanished, new tribes arose out of their dust, were born in 
darkness and passed their infancy in twilight, learned and 
won glory. Perhaps aeons were sunk in eternity, and many a 
time day glimmered in the minds of people, and night enveloped 
the souls as many times before Egypt arose. 

"Egyptian civilization was linked with Greek. The Romans 
studied at this great school. 

"What succeeded this brilliant epoch? The barbarism of 
many centuries! 

'This thick pall slowly thinned and at last the sun of science 
shone; the kind and credulous humanists moved from suc- 
cess to success, descried the near goal of perfection <and in 
joyous exaltation exclaimed: the shorel But suddenly the sky 
was veiled, and the fate of mankind w-as hidden behind black 
clouds! O, generations to come! What future awaits you? 

"At times >a feeling of unbearable sadness wrings my heart; 

I fall on my knees and stretch out my hands to the unseen 

There is no answer! My head falls to my breast. 
22* 



840 A. HERZEN 

"The eternal circular movement, the eternal repetition, the 
eternal alternation from day to night and from night to day. 
A drop of joy in the sea of bitter tears. My friend! Why should 
you, I, or anybody else live? What did our forefathers live for? 
What will posterity live for? 

"My spirits droop, I am weak and sad!" 

These lines, engendered by suffering, full of fire ( and tears, 
were written at the end of the nineties by N. M. Karamzin. 92 

The introduction to the Russian manuscript contained a 
few words written to friends in Russia. I did not consider it 
necessary to republish them in the German edition. Here 
they are. 

1 FAREWELL ! 9 ' 

(Paris, March I, 1849) 

OUR separation will continue for a long time, perhaps for 
ever. At the present moment I do not wish to return; and I 
do not know whether I will have a chance to do so later. 
You have been expecting me and I am in duty bound to 
explain the situation. If I owe anyone at all an explanation 
for my absence, or for my conduct, it is, of course, to you, 
my friends. 

An insurmountable repugnance and ia strong inner voice, a 
prophetic voice, forbids me from crossing the borders of Rus- 
sia, particularly now when the monarchy, exasperated and 
frightened by all that is going on in Europe, redoubles its fury 
in suppressing every intellectual movement, and brutally cur- 
tains off sixty million people from mankind liberating itself, 
barring out with its black, iron hand, covered with Polish 
blood, the last ray of light faintly illuminating a small num- 
ber of them. No, my friends, I cannot cross the boundary of this 
kingdom of darkness, arbitrariness, silent torpor, secret mur- 
ders, gagged torture. I shall wait until the power, weary with 
fruitless efforts and enfeebled by the resistance it has provoked, 
recognizes something in the Russian individual worthy of 
respect. 

Please, -don't misunderstand me: it is not pleasure or diver- 
sion, nor even personal safety that I have found here. Indeed, 



FROM THE OTHER SHORE &41 

I do not know who could, today in Europe, find either pleasure 
or diversion; diversion during earthquakes, pleasure during d 
despenate struggle. You could sense the sorrow in every line 
of my letters; life here is very difficult. Venomous hatred is 
intermingled with love; gall with tears; a feverish lagitiatiori 
saps the whole organism. The time of illusions -and hopes is 
over. There is nothing here in which I believe save a handful 
of people, a few ideas and the fact that the movement cannot 
be stopped. I see the inevitable downfall of the old Europe and 
regret nothing that exists, neither the heights attained by her 
education, nor her institutions. There is nothing in this world 
that I love more than that which it chastises, nothing that I 
respect more than that which it executes and yet I stay here onty 
to suffer doubly from my own grief and from its grief and to 
perish, perhaps, iat its downfall and ruin towards which it is 
rushing headlong. 

Why then do I stay here? 

I stay because that struggle is going on here. Here, in pu-c 
of the blood and tears, social problems are being worked out- 
and painful and burning as the suffering here is, it is articu- 
late. The struggle is open and above-board. No one hides. Woe 
betide the vanquished but at least they will have given 'battld 
They are not gagged before they have had their s-ay. The tyran- 
ny is great but the protest is thundering; the w-arriors -are 
often sent to the galleys, chained hand and foot 'but with 
head upraised and their right to free speech not denied them! 
Where the word has not been lost, the cause has not yet beert 
lost. It is this open struggle, this free speech that keeps m6 
here. For its s-ake I am willing to sacrifice everything. I giv 
up you, my friends, part of my fortune iand, perhaps, my very 
life to march in the ranks of the vigorous minority "persecut- 
ed, but invincible." 

It is for this free word that I have broken, or rather, for A 
time, loosened my blood ties with the people in whom I found 
such rich response to all that is light and -dark in my heart} 
whose tongue iand songs are my tongue and songs, and I 
stay in a country where only the bitter cry of the proletariat 
and the desperate bravery of its friends arouse my deep 
sympathy. 



342 A. HER ZEN 

This decision has cost me dear. You 'know me iand will 'be- 
lieve me. I have stifled my heartache. My heart has been torn 
by the struggle, and I have made my decision not as a hot- 
headed youth but as ia man who has long reflected over the 
step taken, weighing iall that he loses. It took me many months 
of hesitation and deliberation to arrive at ia decision and I 
have finally decided to sacrifice everything 

To human dignity, 
To free speech. 

I cannot let myself be influenced by consideration of the 
consequences. They lie beyond my power. They depend rather 
on the power of autocratic caprice which goes to the lengths 
of its "arbitrary compass which has traced not only our words, 
but our steps as well. It lay, however, within my power not 
to obey, and I did not. 

To go against one's convictions when it can be avoided 
is immoral. Passive submission now becomes "almost impos- 
sible. I have witnessed two revolutions. I have too long been 
<a free man to suffer myself again to be enchained. I have 
lived through popular movements and have grown accustomed 
to free speech. Am I again to become a serf? Never, not even 
for the sake of suffering together with you! If it were neces- 
sary to prevail over myself for the sake of a common cause, I 
might have found the strength. But where is this common 
cause of ours at the moment? There, at home, you have no 
ground on which a free -man can stand. So how can you call 
me back? To a struggle I gladly agree! But to martyrdom, 
to futile silence, to submission under no circumstances! Ask 
anything you like of me, but don't ask me to be double-faced; 
don't compel me to act the loyal subject. Respect in me the 
liberty of the individual. 

Personal freedom is a magnificent thing; by it and by it 
alone can a nation achieve its true freedom. Man must re- 
spect and honour his freedom in himself no less than in his 
neighbour or in the people at large. If you are convinced of 
this then you will agree that it is my right and my duty to 
remain here; that it constitutes the only way in which an in- 



FROM THE OTHER SHORE 343 

dividual in our country can voice his protest; that it is the 
sacrifice he must make for the sake of human dignity. But if 
you will qualify my staying here as desertion, and forgive me 
only because you love me, that will mean that you have not 
yet completely liberated yourselves. 

I am well aware what objection may be raised from the 
point of view of sentimental patriotism and civic affectation; 
but I cannot accept these superannuated views. I have out- 
grown them. I have extricated myself from them and it is pre- 
cisely against them that I am fighting. This rehash of Roman 
and Christian reminiscences interfere most of all with the es- 
tablishment of true conceptions of freedom conceptions that 
are sound, clear and mature. Fortunately customs and long 
evolution in Europe compensate for some of the absurd theo- 
ries and absurd laws. People here live on soil fertilized by two 
civilizations; the path, trodden by their ancestors in the course 
of two and -a half thousand years, was not futile, >and much 
that is human has sprung up in spite of externalities and the 
official system. 

In the worst days of European history we find some respect 
for the individual -and a certain recognition of his independ- 
ence, certain rights conceded to talent, to genius. Vile as the 
German Government of those days was, Spinoza was not 
exiled. Lessing was not flogged nor forced into the army. In 
this respect shown not only to sheer physical force, but to 
moral force as well, in this involuntary recognition of the 
individual lies one of the greatest humanistic principles of life 
in Europe. 

Europe never regarded its citizens residing abroad as crim- 
inals or anyone emigrating to America as a traitor. 

Not so in our country. The individual at home ever oppressed 
and neglected has never made as much as an attempt to 
get a hearing. Free expression of opinion at home was always 
regarded as an insolence; independence as sedition. The in- 
dividual was absorbed in the state; was dissolved in the com- 
mune. The revolution eifected by Peter I replaced the anti- 
quated landlord rule of Russia by the European bureaucratic 
system. Everything that could -be transferred from the Swed- 
ish and German codes was; everything that could be trans- 



344 A. HERZEN 

planted from Holland, a land of free municipalities, to an 
autocratic government of rural communes was borrowed. But 
the unwritten, moral restraints on the government, the instinc- 
tive recognition of the rights of individuals, the right of 
thought, of truth, could not be transplanted and were not. 
Slavery in Russia increased with education; the state grew, 
improved, but the individual in no wiay profited by the process. 
Indeed, the stronger the state grew, the weaker did he become. 
The European forms of administration and of the judiciary, 
military -and civil organization have developed into ia mon- 
strous, hopeless despotism. If Russia were not so vast an-d that 
borrowed system of government had not been built so hap- 
hazardly and amorphously, one could then say without exag- 
geration that not a soul with -any sense of personal dignity 
could have remained in Russia. 

Corrupted by the complete absence of resistance, power 
went on occasions to outrageous lengths, unparalleled in the 
history of any other country. You know the extent of it from 
stories about Emperor Paul, a poet of his craft. Discard the 
capricious, the fantastic in Paul and you will see that he is 
by no means original and the principles inspiring him are 
exactly those to be found not only in all the tsars but in every 
governor, police inspector or landlord. All fourteen ranks of 
the famous bureaucratic hierarchy are becoming ever more 
drunk with the certainty of their own immunity. Every act of 
power, every relation of a superior to a subordinate is a fla- 
grant exhibition of gross insolence, of the humiliating certain- 
ty that the individual will stand for anything: the recruitment 
repeated for three times, the law on foreign passports, flogging 
in the school for engineers. Thus Little Russia accepted serfdom 
in the eighteenth century; thus all Russia, finally, believed that 
people could be sold and resold without a question, without 
even being asked by anybody on what legal grounds all this 
was done, not even by those who were being sold. The govern- 
ment at home is more self-assured and unrestrained than it is in 
Turkey or in Persia. There is nothing to restrict it, no traditions 
of the past: for it has disowned its own past, and has no con- 
cern for that of Europe. It has no respect for its people, knows 



FROM THE OTHER SHORE 345 

nothing of the general culture of mankind, and battles against 
the present. Hitherto, at least, the government was ashamed of 
its neighbours and looked up to them; now it sets itself up as 
an example to all oppressors and aspires to be their mentor. 

We saw the worst possible period of the imperial regime. 
We grew up under terror, under the black wings of the secret 
police, and were mutiliated by hopeless oppression. We 'have 
barely survived. But is that not too little? Has the time not 
come to loosen our hands -and tongue for activity which would 
serve as an example? Has the time not come to awaken the 
slumbering consciousness of the peoples? And surely it is im- 
possible to awaken it by whispering, or remote allusions, 
when shouting and blunt words tare barely audible? Open, 
frank acts -are required: December 14 made so violent an im- 
pression on young Russia precisely because it took place in 
St. Isaac's Square. But now not only the square, but the written 
word, or the lecturer's chair have all grown impossible in 
Russia. An individual working in secrecy or his protest from 
afar is all that is now left open to us. 

I stay here not only because I find it repugnant to allow 
myself to be pinioned on crossing the borders, but also in 
order to work. I cannot live with folded arms anywhere; here 
I have no other work but that of our cause. 

He who has, for more than twenty years, nurtured in his 
breast a single thought, suffered for it and lived for it; he who 
has wandered from prison to prison, from one place of exile 
to another, who owes to this thought the finest moments of 
his life, the most inspiring meetings, will not abandon it. 
Nor will he make it dependent on external factors and the 
degree of longitude and latitude. Quite the other way round. 
Here I am more useful. Here I am your uncensored speech, 
your free press, your chance representative. 

All this seems new and unusual only to us; actually it has 
had many precedents. In all countries, faithful and 
active people used to emigrate at the beginning of a revolution, 
when thougin was still feeble and the material power 
unbridled: their free words came from afar and this fact in it- 
self lent their words weight and authority, for behind the 
words you could see the self-sacrificing deeds. The force of 



346 A. HERZIiN 

their words grew with the distance, as does the impetus of a 
stone, dropped from a high tower. Emigration is the first 
symptom of the approaching revolution. 

Besides, Russians abroad have one more task to fulfil. It is 
indeed time to acquaint Europe with Russia. Europe -does not 
know us; she knows our government, our facade and nothing 
more; conditions are extremely propitious for accomplishing 
this. It would not become Europe to drape herself majestically 
in the robes of disdainful ignorance. Das vornehme Ignorieren 
of Russia would not become Europe now that she has felt the 
despotism of the petit bourgeoisie and the Algerian Cossacks, 94 
now that she has been kept in a state of siege from the Danube 
to the Atlantic Ocean, and her prisons and galleys have been 
filled with people persecuted for their convictions. Let Europe 
become more closely (acquainted with ia nation whose youthful 
strength she felt in battles even though she eventually emerged 
the victor; let us tell Europe of this mighty and still enigmatic 
people which has so unobtrusively formed a country of sixty 
million and has grown so strong and tremendously large 
without departing from the principle of communal organiza- 
tion, and was the first to preserve it through the various stages 
of state development; about a people which, in some astonish- 
ing way, was able to come out intact from under the yoke of 
the Mongolian hordes and of German bureaucrats, from under 
the disciplinary stick of the corporal of the barracks and from 
under the degrading whip of the Tatars, a people which retained 
its fine character, clear mind and vigorous nature in spite 
of the oppression of serfdom, and which responded to the 
tsar's edict to promote education within a century with the 
genius of Pushkin. Let the Europeans become acquainted with 
their neighbour; they only fear him. It would be well for them 
to know what they fear. 

Hitherto we have been unpardonably modest and conscious 
of our enslaved condition. We were apt to forget all that was 
good, full of hope and promise in the life of our people. We 
waited for a German in order to introduce ourselves to Eu- 
rope. 95 Is that not a disgrace? 

Will I have the time to accomplish something? I don't 
know I hope sol 



FROM THE OTHER SHORE 347 

Farewell, my friends, for long give me your hands and 
your help. I need both the one and the other. And then, who 
knows? So much has happened in recent times! Perhaps that 
day when we shall -gather as of old in Moscow tand clink our 
glasses unafraid "To Russia iand blessed liberty," is not so far 
off as it seems. 

My heart refuses to believe that that day will not come; it is 
wrung .at the thought of eternal separation, at the thought that 
I shall not see those streets which I paced so often full of my 
youthful dreams, those houses which are so interwoven with 
my memories, our Russian villages, our peasants whom I 

missed so much at the southernmost part of Italy No, it 

cannot be. But what if it is so? Then I bequeath my toast to my 
children. Dying in ian lalien land, I shall preserve my fiaith in 
the future of the Russian people, and bless it from my place of 
voluntary exile! 



I 

BEFORE THE STORM 
(Conversation on Board Ship) 96 

Ist's denn so grosses Geheimnis, was Gott 
und der Mensch und die Welt sei? 
- Nein, doch niemand hort's gern, alsobleibt 
es geheim. 

Goethe 

". . .1 agree that your ideas are full of audacity, vigour, 
truth, and even humour; but I cannot accept them. Perhaps it 
can all be reduced to a question of temperament, of the nerv- 
ous system. You will have no followers until you have learnt 
how to change the blood in the veins." 

"Perhaps, however, my viewpoint is beginning to grow on 
you you search for physiological excuses, appeal to man's 
nature." 

"Certainly not in order to achieve serenity, to live without 
suffering and look indifferently on the troubled world from the 



348 A. HER ZEN 

Olympic heights like Goethe, 'admiring the convulsions of this 
chaos struggling in vain for equilibrium." 

"Your sarcasm is misplaced. If I groped about for an under- 
standing of life, it was without any ulterior purpose. I simply 
wanted to learn something, to get deeper -at the roots of 
things. All that I had heard and read neither satisfied me nor 
explained anything. On the contrary, it Landed me in contra- 
dictions or absurdities. I sought neither consolation nor de- 
spair for I was young. Now I greatly appreciate every fleeting 
consolation, every minute of joy: for they grow ever rarer. 97 
Then I searched only for the truth, for something within my 
understanding. Have I learned or understood much? I don't 
know. I cannot s-ay that my viewpoint is particularly consol- 
ing but I feel more at peace with the world and do not 
reproach life for not giving what it cannot give that is all 
I have gained." 

"I, for my part, want to overcome neither my suffering nor 
my >anger. That is a human right which I would not think of 
renouncing. My indignation is my form of protest. I don't want 
to make peace." 

"And indeed, with whom could you make it? You say that 
you do not wish your suffering to end. That means that you 
do not wish to accept the truth -as it arises in your own mind. 
It might not demand that you should suffer. But you have 
already renounced logic, reserving for yourself the choice of 
accepting or rejecting the consequences. Do you remember that 
Englishman who, all his life, refused to recognize Napoleon 
as emperor? This did not, however, prevent the latter from 
being crowned twice! Far from consistent, this obstinate desire 
to remain aloof from the world is -also extremely vain. Man is 
fond of effects, he loves to play .a role, particularly .a tragic 
one: suffering is fine, noble, and implies unhappiness. But 
that is not all besides vanity, it requires -a great deal of 
cowardice. Don't take amiss the use of the word: fear of the 
truth leads many to prefer suffering to analysis. Suffering 
distracts, occupies, consoles . . . yes, indeed, it does console 
and what is most important, like every occupation, it keeps 
man form searching his soul and studying life. Pascal said that 
people play cards so as not to be left alone with themselves. 



FROM THE OTHER SHORE 349 

We are constantly seeking for some sort of such cards; we 
tare even willing to lose if it will only help us to forget reiality. 
Our life is one unending flight away from ourselves; it is ias 
if our conscience were shadowing our footsteps -and frighten- 
ing us. As soon as man comes of age he begins to shout so 
#s not to hear the words within him. He is sad iand seeks 
entertainment; he has nothing to do (and so he invents some 
occupation. His hatred for solitude leads him to make friends 
with everybody, read everything, busy himself with other 
people's affairs and finally, to marry in haste. That is the 
haven: family peace -and family war will not leave much room 
for thought. It is somehow unseeming for a family man to 
think much. He should not have that much free time. He who 
has failed in that career, too, seeks escape in wine, numismat- 
ics, cards, horse races, women, avarice, philanthropy; he turns 
to mysticism, becomes a Jesuit, and undertakes monstrous 
labours which nonetheless seem to him to be easier to bear 
than some menacing truth slumbering within him. In this fear 
to investigate, lest we disclose the (absurdity of the object 
investigated, in this feigned business, in these fictitious misfor- 
tunes which hamper every step with phantom shackles, we 
pass through life in a trance and die in the fumes of -absurdi- 
ties and trivialities, without gaining full consciousness. Isn't 
that strange? So long as our inner life is not concerned, people 
are intelligent, bold, penetrating; they regard themselves as 
outsiders to mature and make a conscientious study of it their 
method is different, their very approach is different. Isn't it 
cowardly to live in this fear of truth, of investigation? Granted 
that many dreams will pale and life won't become easier, but 
rather harder even then it is more moral, more dignified and 
courageous to stop playing the child., If only people regarded 
each other the way they regard nature; if they descended 
laughingly from their pedestals, from their curule chairs, re- 
garded life more simply and ceased to grow incensed because 
life does not carry out their supercilious commands and pri- 
vate whims. You, for example, expected of life anything but 
what it brought you; instead of appreciating what it gave, you 
are indignant with it. This indignation is, probably, a good 
thing; it is that potent ferment which stirs man to activity, but 



350 A. HER ZEN 

it is only the initial impulse. It is not -enough to be merely 
indignant, spending a lifetime in regretting failures, in -strug- 
gle and despair. Tell me frankly, how did you try to make sure 
that your demands were justified?" 

"I have not invented them; they arose in my breast sponta- 
neously. The more I thought of them later, the more apparent 
Wias their justice and their good sense. That is my proof. It 
cannot be an aberration or lunacy; thousands of others, 
indeed, our whole generation, suffer talmost in the same way: 
some more, some less, depending on the circumstances iand the 
level of development 98 the 'higher the latter is, the greater is 
their suffering. An omnipresent sadness is the most salient 
trait of our time; a painful ennui ,has gripped the soul of the 
man of our day; the consciousness of his monal impotence 
troubles him; lack of confidence in everything ages him before 
his time. I regard you as an exception; moreover, your indif- 
ference seems suspicious to me: it smacks of frigid despiair, of 
the indifference of :a nuan who has lost not only hope but hope- 
lessness as well; it is ian unnatural oalm. Nature, true in -all 
its manifestations, as you have repeatedly siaid, must be equal- 
ly true in this manifestation of sadness <and dejection; its 
universality invests it with some right to existence. Admit that 
it is precisely your point of view that makes it nather difficult 
to assert the contrary." 

"Why should I? I desire nothing better than to iagree with 
you. The dejected state which you speak of is self-evident and, 
of course, is historically justified: it is justified in seeking a 
way out. Suffering and pain are ia challenge, are the cry of 
lalarm raised by life, signalizing dianger. The world in which 
we live is dying; that is to say, that form in which life 
manifests itself; no remedies can help its decrepit body. If the 
heirs are to breathe freely, it must be buried; yet people insist 
on treating the patient and staving off death. You have, prob- 
ably, had occasion to see the heart-rending grief, the poign- 
ant, distressing uncertainty felt in a house where someone is 
dying: despair is aggravated by hope, the nerves 'are strained 
to the breaking point; the healthy become ill, life practically 
comes to -a standstill. The death of the patient relieves those 
who remained behind. Tears 'are shed but gone is that killing 



FROM THE OTHER SHORE 361 

expectancy: the irretrievable loss is -a stark reality that has 
severed the past. Then life begins to recover, to heal its wounds 
and take a new turn." We live in a great and agonizing epoch. 
That is reason enough for our despondency. Moreover, the pre- 
ceding centuries particularly developed in us a feeling of melan- 
choly, ia morbid languor. For three centuries everything 
simple, sound, vital, has been crushed; thought hardly dared 
to raise its voice, and its position resembled that of the Jews 
in the Middle Ages who were forced to be sly, servile, and 
wary. This is what influenced our intellect which developed 
and matured in this unhealthy atmosphere. It naturally turned 
from Catholic mysticism to idealism 100 retaining fear of all 
that was natural, ian uneasy conscience, and expectations of 
impossible blessings. It is still -divorced from life, keeps its 
romantic sadness and has cultivated its anguish and disjoint- 
edness. How long is it since we, intimidated from childhood 
up, have ceased to renounce our most innocent desires? How 
long is it since we have ceased to tremble iat the discovery that 
our heart is full of passionate yearnings not listed in the 
romantic catalogue? You said last time that those exigencies 
which tormented us developed naturally. That is so, and then 
again, it is not so everything is natural: scrofula is most 
naturally the result of malnutrition and bad climatic condi- 
tions, yet we nonetheless regard it as something alien to the 
organism. Education treats us as Hamilcar his son, Hannibal: 
it binds us by an oath before we have reached the age of 
reason. It entangles us in a moral servitude which we regard 
las compulsory because of a false sense of -delicacy, or the dif- 
ficulty of rejecting what has been inculcated in us so early in 
life and, finally, because of sheer laziness to delve into the 
essence of the matter. Education snares us 'before we -are able 
to understand things; it makes children believe in the impos- 
sible and cuts them off from a free iand direct relation to the 
world. As we grow up we realize that everything is awry: both 
ideas and life; that what we were taught to look to for support 
is rotten and flimsy; while what we were warned to avoid like 
poison, is wholesome. Intimidated and mystified, trained to 
obedience iand rules, we finally find ourselves at large, each 
groping for the truth as best he knows how. Tormented by the 



352 A. HER ZEN 

desire to know, we eavesdrop behind doors and peep through 
cracks, or resort to subterfuges and shams. We regard truth as 
a vice and scorn for lies ias insolence. Is it to be wondered 
then that we can set to rights neither our external nor inter- 
nal life? That we exaggerate our demands and our sacrifices? 
That we disdain the possible and grow impatient when the 
impossible disdains us? We chafe against the natural condi- 
tions of life and yield to arbitrary nonsense. All our civilization 
is like that: it developed in the midst of civil strife. Escaped 
from schools and monasteries, it did not enter life, but passed 
through it, like Faust, to see, to reflect, and then to withdraw 
from the common herd to the drawing-room, to the academy, 
to the library. Two banners it carried: "Romanticism for the 
Soul" was inscribed on one of them, "Idealism for the Mind 1 ' 
on the other. That largely taccounts for much of the disorder in 
our life. We do not like simplicity; we do not respect nature 
by tradition; we want to dispose of it, to heal it by means of 
incantations and then wonder why the patient does not 
improve. Physics outrages us by the independence of its spirit; 
what we long for is talchemy, magic; whereas life and nature 
unconcernedly pursue their own ends, yielding to man only 
in so far as he learns to apply nature's own means." 

"You seem to take me for a German poet, and one from the 
previous epoch to boot, who, vexed because he possessed a 
body and was obliged to nourish it, sought for 'incorporeal 
virgins, a different nature, -and another sun.' I desire neither 
magic nor mysteries; I merely want to shake off that state 
which you describe a dozen times more vividly than I that 
moral impotence, those wretched ideas which cannot be 
adapted to life. What I want is to emerge out of that chaos 
where we have finally ceased to distinguish our enemies from 
our friends. It disgusts me to see, no matter where I look, 
either the tortured or the torturing. What magic words do we 
need to make people realize that they alone are to blame for 
their wretchedness to explain to them, for example, that there 
is no need to rob the poor, that it is abominable to gorge 
within sight of starving people; that murder is just -as outra- 
geous when committed stealthily on the highway at night as 
when committed in broad daylight on the grand square to the 



FROM THE OTHER SHORE 353 

roll of drums, or that it is dastardly to say one thing and do 
another. . . . In ia word, to explain to them all those new truths 
which have been uttered, repeated -and printed ever -since the 
days of the seven Greek sages, and then, I think, they were 
already hoary with age. Moralists and priests fulminate from 
the pulpits, hold forth on morality and on sins, preach the 
Gospel and Rousseau. No one raises iany abjections and no 
one will obey." 

"Candidly, there is nothing in this to regret. All these doc- 
trines and sermons are, for the most part, untrue, inapplicable 
and more confusing than simple, daily life. The trouble is that 
thought always races far iahead the people cannot keep up 
with their teachers. Take our -age: several persons brushed up 
against the revolution which neither they nor the people were 
in a position to accomplish. Those in the vanguard thought it 
was enough for them to say: 'Leave your people iand follow 
us!' and the movement would get un-der way. They were 
mistaken the people knew them >as little as they knew the 
people; they did not believe them. Unaware that they had no 
following, these people went on commanding and "advancing; 
when they finally awoke to the situation they began to shout 
at the laggards, waving their 'arms, calling them, and shower- 
ing reproaches on them but it was too late. They were too far 
away their voices did not reach that far. And, indeed, the 
language they spoke was not the language used by the masses. 
It is painful to admit that we live in a world in its dotage, 
decrepit and wasted, which obviously lacks the power and 
deportment to rise to the level of its own thought. We iare sor- 
ry for the old world; we have grown accustomed to it as to the 
parental home; we support it, trying to demolish it, and adjust 
its inept forms to our convictions without realizing that their 
first iota is its death sentence. We wear clothes cut for our 
forefathers; our brain was moulded by antecedent influences; 
it is in no condition to grasp much, and there is much it sees 
from a false angle. People have arrived at the present state 
at such great cost that it seems a haven after the madness of 
feudalism and the brutal oppression that followed; too happy 
for them not to fear a change. They have grown turgid in its 
forms; adapted themselves to them. Habit has taken the place 
231157 



354 A. HER ZEN 

of devotion, the horizon has narrowed -the mind has ceased 
to soar, the will has grown feeble." 

"What a forceful description! Add to this that cheek by jowl 
with the contented, those whom the present scheme of things 
satisfies, are, on the one hand, the poor uncultivated, back- 
ward and hungry, struggling hopelessly against need, exhaust- 
ed by work which cannot give them enough to eat and, on 
the other, those like us, who have incautiously run on ahead, 
surveyors setting up the landmarks of a new world of which 
we shall never even see the foundation. If 'anything has been 
left of all the hopes, af life which has slipped through our 
fingers (it certainly has), then that is the faith in the future. 
Sometime, long after our death, the house for which we have 
cleared the site, will be built and in it life will be good and 
comfortable for others." 

"After all, there is no reason to assume that the new world 
will be built according to our plan." 

The young man gave a -discontented shake of his head and 
looked for a moment at the sea. The calm was still absolute; a 
low, heavy cloud passed so slowly overhead that the smoke of 
the vessel mingled with it as it rose. The sea was black, the 
lair sultry. 

"You treat me," he said after a silence, "as a highwayman 
treats his victim. You have robbed me of everything I own 
and still unsatisfied, you strip me of my last tatters which 
shield me from the cold .and reach out for my very hair. You 
compelled me to doubt very much but I still had the future 
and now you have deprived me of that, too. You rob me of my 
hopes like Macbeth you kill my visions." 

"And I was under the impression that I w>as more like a sur- 
geon who removes a fungus." 

"Indeed, that is still more apt: the surgeon removes the 
sick part of the body, without replacing it with a healthy 
part." 

"And, incidentally, saves a life, delivering the patient from 
a harrowing, chronic disease." 

"I know only too well what this delivery of yours means. 
You fling open the doors of the dungeons and wish to turn out 
the captive into the steppes, assuring him that he is free; you 



FROM THE OTHER SHORE 355 

demolish the Bastille but put up nothing in its place what is 
left is just bare ground." 

"That would be wonderful if it were as you say. Unfortu- 
nately the remains and the rubble interfere at every step." 

"But what do they interfere with? What is our true vocation, 
where is our banner? What do we 'believe in? What do we 
reject?" 

"We believe in everything, but don't believe in ourselves. 
You secik to find ia -banner? I seek to lose it. You want ia guide- 
book, while I think that on reaching a certain age one should 
be -ashamed to use it. You have just said that we have set up 
the landmarks of 'a new world. . . ." 

"And they are pulled up by the spirit of negation and analy- 
sis. You have a much more sombre view of the world than I, 
and the consolation you offer only serves to give more frightful 
expression to the present ordeal. If the future does not belong 
to us then our -entire civilization is a fraud, the -day-dream of 
a fifteen-ye-ar-old girl at which she herself will laugh when 
she is twenty-five. Our labour is in vain, our efforts ridic- 
ulous, our hopes resemble those of le paysan du Danube. 
But then, perhaps, that is what you mean: we should aban- 
don our civilization 'and, rejecting it, turn back to those lag- 
gards?" 

"No, it is impossible to renounce progress. What can be 
done to nuake me forget what I know? Our civilization is the 
finest flower of life today how could one forego one's own 
progress? But what has that to do with, the realization of our 
ideals; why must the future follow the programme worked out 
by us?" 

"That moans, then, that our thoughts have brought us to 
unrealizable hopes, to absurd expectations. With these hopes 
aboard, the last fruit of our labours, our ship is caught by the 
waves iand is sinking. The future does not belong to us; we 
will have naught to do with the present iand there is no har- 
bour. We -are on board this ship for better or for worse. All 
that remains to us is to watch, with folded iarms, for the water 
to flood it. He whom this prospect bores and who has more 
courage, can throw himself into the sea. 
23* 



$56 A. IIERZEN 

". . . Le monde fait naufrage, 

Vieux bdtiment, use par tous les flots, 

II s'engloutit sauvons-nous a la nage!"* 

"I "ask for nothing better, but there is a -difference between 
drowning iand swimming to safety. The destiny of the young 
people whom you mentioned in this song, is frightful, they are 
doubly the victims for they are martyrs without faith. Let their 
death 'be laid iat the doors of the odious society in which they 
live; let their death shame it, stigmatize it. But who told you 
that death was the only way out of this world of senility and 
agony? You insult life. Leave the world you don't belong to 
if you really feel yourself a stranger there. We cannot save 
It save yourself from the toppling ruins. By saving yourself, 
you save the future. What have you in common with this 
world? Perhaps its civilization? But, after all, this civilization 
now belongs to you, and not to the world which produced it, 
or out of which it was engendered. The world is not even 
guilty of understanding this civilization. Or perhaps it is its 
way of life? You find it obnoxious and, to tell the truth, it is 
difficult to love anything so absurd. Is it, finally, your suffer- 
ing? The world is quite unaware of it. Nor is it .acquainted 
with your joys. You are young; it is old. Take a look and sec 
how feeble it has grown in its worn, 'aristocratic livery; partic- 
ularly after the thirties 102 when its face turned ashy. It is the 
fades hypocratica, by which the doctor knows that death has 
come. Sometimes the patient makes a last feeble effort to cling 
to life, once again to take possession of it, recover from his 
illness and enjoy himself but he cannot and falls into a 
heavy, delirious somnolence. There is talk of phalansters, 
democracies, socialism; he listens and understands nothing, 
or sometimes smiles at such speeches, shaking his head and 
remembering dreams in whidh he once believed, but stopped 
believing when he grew up. That is why he regards, with 
senile indifference, Communists and Jesuits, pastors and Jaco- 
bins, the Rothschild brothers -and the starving people; he looks 



* Beranger: Sur la mart d'Escousse et Lebras. m A.H. 



FROM THE OTHER SHORE 357 

vacantly at everything that passes before his eyes. He is ready 
to die for the few franks clutched in his fist, or even commit 
murder. Let the old man live out his days as he best knows 
how in the alms-house. There is nothing you can do for him." 

"That's not so easy. It is, moreover, -disgusting. But where 
can we fly to? Where is this new Pennsylvania, -all ready?. . ." 

"In order to build old buildings out of new bricks? William 
Penn carried the old world to implant it on the new soil. 
North America is a corrected edition of -an older previous text, 
and nothing more. But the Christians in Rome ceased to be 
Ronnans this inner exodus is more to the point." 

"The idea to attain self-concentration, to cut the umbilical 
cord attaching us to our motherland, to our iage, has been 
preached for >a long time ibut was slowly realized. It arises in 
people's minds after every failure or loss of faith. It was the 
pillar that upheld the mystics and the Masons, philosophers 
-and the Illuminati. 103 They all pointed to the inner exodus but 
nobody left. Rousseau? He, too, turned aside from the world. 
Enamoured of it he nonetheless sought to escape from the 
world but he could not live without it. His disciples carried on 
his life in the Convention, fought, suffered, executed others, 
laid their own heads down on the block but neither left 
France, nor withdrew from their seething activity." 

"Their time did not resemble ours in any way. Their future 
scintillated with countless hopes. Rousseau -and his disciples 
imagined that if their ideas of fraternity were not realized, 
it was because of physical obstacles because the word was 
enchained or the action was unfree and they, consistent to 
the end, assaulted all that thwarted their ideas. The task was 
formidable, enormous, but they were victorious. And once vic- 
torious, they thought, the time had at last arrived. . ... But this 
at last led them to the guillotine an-d that was absolutely the 
best that could have happened to them. Elated with battle and 
labour, their faith intact, they died, swept away by a stormy 
blast. They were certain that when the storm subsided, their 
ideal would be realized without them, but still realized. At 
last this lull came. How fortunate that -all these enthusiasts 
had long been in their gravesl They did not have to face the 
fact that their cause had not advanced an inch; that their 



308 A. HER ZEN 

ideals had remained ideals; that it was not enough to raze 
the Bastille to make free people of the prisoners. You compare 
us with them, forgetting that we know what has happened in 
the fifty years that have passed since their death, that we saw 
all the hopes of the theoretical minds derided, heard the daemon 
of history laugh at the expense of their science, ideas, theories. 
We saw the republic give way to Napoleon, and the Revolution 
of 1830 conquered by the stock exchange. Having witnessed 
all that has passed, we cannot harbour the hopes of our pred- 
ecessors. Having made a deeper study of revolutionary ques- 
tions we demand today what they demanded, but in a greater 
and wider degree, yet even their demands remain as inappli- 
cable <as before. So, on the one hand, there is the logical con- 
sistency of thought and its triumph; on the other hand, its 
absolute impotence against the world, both deaf and dumb, and 
inability to grasp the idea of salvation as it is expounded to it 
either because this idea is badly expressed or else because it is 
of purely theoretical, bookish significance as was, for 
example, Roman philosophy which never reached more than a 
small circle of educated people." 

"But which do you think is right? Theoretical thought 
which arose -and took shape historically, though consciously, 
or the fact of the present world which disowns thought but, 
likewise, constitutes the necessary sequence of the past?" 

"Both are absolutely right. All this confusion is the outcome 
of the fact that life has its own embryogeny which is at 
variance with the dialectics of pure reason. Speaking of the 
antique world, ihere is -an example: instead of realizing Plato's 
republic and the policy of Aristotle, it realized the Roman 
Republic and the policy of its conquerors; instead of the Utopias 
of Cicero and Seneca, the counties of Lombardy and German 
law." 

"Do you not prophesy that our civilisation will fall as did 
that of Rome? A comforting thought and pleasant pros- 
pect. . . ." 

"Neither pleasant nor unpleasant. What :astonislhes you in 
so commonplace a thought: everything in the world has its end? 
Yet civilization does not perish so long as there is no complete 
break in the continuity of the human race: people have a good 



FROM THE OTHER SHORE 359 

memory. Is not the Roman civilization .alive for us? And it, 
exactly like our own, went far 'beyond the confines of its 
environment. That is exactly why, on the one hand, it flourished 
so luxuriantly and, on the other, could not realize itself in 
full. It made its contribution to its world, >as it contributes 
much to us; but Rome's immediate future was to sprout on 
other pastures: in the catacombs, where the persecuted Chris- 
tians took refuge and in the forests where the savage Ger- 
mans roamed. " 

"But how is it that in nature everything is so well ordered 
while civilization, its supreme effort, the crown of an epoch, 
emerges out of it without aim, falls out of reality and finally 
withers, leaving behind vague recollections. In the meantime 
mankind retrogrades, or makes a detour and begins again to 
grow only to produce that same luxuriant flower magnificent 

but sterile Your philosophy of history contains something 

that revolts the soul: what end does all this effort serve? The 
life of the people becomes a futile game. You build, grain by 
grain, stone by stone, and before you know it, it all again col- 
lapses and people come crawling out from under the ruins, and 
again set down to clearing the ground in order to build a hut 
out of moss, boards and fallen capitals, eventually arriving 
through ages of arduous labour to another downfall. Shake- 
speare had good reason for saying that history is a stupid talc 
related by a fool." 

"All this follows from the gloomy outlook you have on life. 
You are like those monks who can find nothing better to say 
on meeting than their dismal memento mori, or like those sen- 
timental people who cannot recall without tears 'that people 
are born only to die.' To look at the end, and not at the thing 
itself, is the gravest mistake. What need has the plant for its 
vivid, magnificent corolla? Or its delicious fragrance which 
will soon pass away? No need at all! But nature is by no means 
so niggardly and does not disdain the ephemeral present. In 
everything it attains the most it can and strives for the extremes 
of fragrance, of pleasure, of thought so as to reach, at one 
and the same time, the highest point of development and death 
which checks and moderates its too extravagant poetic fan- 
tasy and its exuberant outbursts. Who will blame nature 



360 A. HERZEN 

because flowers bloom in the morning and fiade in the evening? 
Or because it cannot make the rose and lily as durable as flint? 
And yet it is this poor and prosaic attitude that we want to 
transfer to the sphere of history. Who has confined civilization 
to applicable elements alone? Where are its bounds? It is las 
boundless as thought or art; it traces the ideals of life, it 
dreams of the apotheosis of its own mode of existence, but 
being is not called upon to execute its fantasies and thoughts, 
particularly since that would only be an improved edition of 
what has been, whereas life aims at what is new. The civiliza- 
tion of Rome was much higher and more humane than the barba- 
rian system; but the inner discordance of the latter bore the 
germs of the development of those aspects which were not to 
be found in Roman civilization, and barbarism- triumphed, in 
spite of both Corpus juris civitis, and the wisdom of the 
Roman philosophers. Nature rejoices in its achievements, yet 
strives for perfection; it has no -desire to injure what exists, 
-and (allows it to live as long as it has the strength to last, and 
until .the new matures. That is the reason Why it is so difficult 
to align the works of nature nature abhors 'alignment. It 
thrashes about and never marches in a straight line. Poten- 
tially, the savage Germans were, in their spontaneity, superior 
to the cultivated Romans." 

"I begin to suspect that you are waiting for the invasion of 
barbarians and the migration of nations." 

"I do not like to hypothesize. The future does not exist; it 
is made up of the sum total of a thousand conditions, both 
essential and fortuitous, plus the human will which supply 
unexpected denouements and coups de theatre. History im- 
proves, but rarely repeats itself; it profits by every chance, it 
knocks at a thousand doors at once and no one can say 
whether they will open or not." 

"Perhaps it will be the gates of the Baltic and then Russia 
will hurl itself down on Europe?" 

"Who knows!" 

"And here we are, after our lengthy philosophizing, back 
again at the squirrel's wheel; back again at the corsi e 
ricorsi of old Vico. 104 Again we have returned to Rhea con- 
tinuously bringing forth children in the throes of labour for 



FROM THE OTHER SHORE 361 

Siaturn to feed upon. Only now Rhea is scrupulous tand does 
not replace the new-born by stones; it is not worth the trouble. 
Among them you will not find either Jupiter or Mars. What is 
the purpose of iall this? You do not solve this problem, -evad- 
ing it. Is it worth while 'for children to be born only to be 
devoured by their father? And, on the whole, is the game 
worth the candle?" 

"Most assuredly it is! Particularly, since it is not you who 
pay for it. What -bothers you is that not -all games iare played 
to a finish but if they were, they would be insufferably dull. 
Goethe used to say that .beauty is transient because only what 
is transient can be beautiful. People take offence iat that. Man 
instinctively strives to preserve iall that pleases him. Once he 
is born, he wants to live eternally; once he has fallen in love 
he wants to love >and be loved all his life, just ias -at the 
moment he declared this love. He blames life because at fifty 
there is no longer that same freshness of feeling, that same 
verve ias at twenty. But such immobility is contrary to the 
spirit of life. Life does not provide for anything lasting in the 
personal sphere; it pours out all it has tat the present moment 
and, bestowing on man the ability to enjoy himself, as best 
he can, neither ensures life nor enjoyment, nor their duration. 
It is in this unceasing movement of life, in these incessant 
.changes that nature is renewed and goes on living. And that 
is what makes it eternally young. That is why every historic 
moment is complete in itself as every year is with its spring 
and summer, with winter iand autumn, with storms >and good 
weather. That is why every period is new, fres'h, and filled 
with its own hopes. That is why it is pregnant with its own 
good and its own pains. The present belongs to it. But people 
demand more they want the future, too, to belong to them." 

"Man suffers because he cannot descry, even in the future, 
that harbour which he is trying to make. He gazes ahead, 
sadly disquieted, lalong the endless path, and sees that he is 
just as far from his aim after .all his efforts as he wias ia 
thousand, nay, two thousand years before." 

"And what is the aim of the singer's song? Sounds, nothing 
but sounds. Sounds that fade away the moment they escape 
the singer's lips. If, instead of enjoying these sounds, you 



362 A. HERZEN 

search for something else in them, wait for something else, 
you will find yourself at the end of the song with memories 
and regrets that, instead of listening, you stood waiting for 
something. . . . You are misled 'by categories which have a poor 
grasp on life. Consider it well: what is this goal is it a pro- 
gramme, or a commandment? Who has given it? To whom has 
it been announced? Is it or is it not obligatory? If it is obliga- 
tory then what are we puppets or people? Indeed, are we 
morally free beings or simply cogs in a wheel? I find it -easier 
'to view life iand, consequently, history too, as the end rather 
than a means to the end." 

"In other words, we are the goal of nature and history/' 
"Partly plus the present of all that exists. That embraces 
everything: the heritage of all piast efforts tand the germs of 
all that is to be; the inspiration of the artist, and the energy of 
the citizen, and the enjoyment of the youth who, 'at this very 
moment, is making his way to the secluded arbour where his 
sweetheart is waiting for him, timid, and full of the moment, 
without a thought for the future, or of a goal, and the frisky 
fish splashing -about in the moonlight, and the harmony of the 
whole solar system in a word, I can make so 'bold as to 
round it off, like feudal titles, with the three etc., etc., etc." 

"You are absolutely right in so far as nature is concerned, 
but it seems to me that you have forgotten that through all 
those changes and entanglements of history runs a red thread 
which joins them into one whole. This thread is progress or, 
perhaps, you do not recognize progress either?" 

"Progress is an inalienable attribute of conscious, uninter- 
rupted development; it is the active record and the physiolog- 
ical perfection of people by social life." 105 
"Is it possible that you do not see the goal here?" 
"On the contrary, here I see the consequence. If progress is 
the goal, then what is it we are working for? What is this 
Moloch who, as the toilers approach him, recedes instead of 
rewarding them; who, to console the exhausted and doomed 
crowds greeting him with moriluri te salutant, can only reply 
with the ironic promise that after their death life on earth will 
be splendid. Can it be that you, too, doom the people of today 
to the sad destiny of the caryatids supporting the balcony on 



FROM THE OTHER SHORE 363 

which others will dance some day? Or assign them to the role 
of those unfortunate workers who, knee-deep in mud, are to 
drag along the bark with the mysterious golden fleece in her 
hold iand the meek inscription "Future Progress" on her flags. 
The exhausted drop in their tracks, while others, pick up the 
harness with renewed strength, yet the road, as you have said, 
remains as long -.as it was at the start, for there is no end to 
progress. This in itself should make people cautious: the iaim, 
endlessly far, is not an -aim but ia snare. The goal must be 
nearer at least wages or the enjoyment of labour. Every 
epoch, every generation, every life has had and will still have 
their plenitude. As it advances now demands larise, new 
ordeals, new means, .and some faculties develop -at the -expense 
.of others; finally, the cerebral matter itself improves. . . . Why 
do you smile? Yes, indeed, the cerebrum improves. Everything 
natural shocks and astonishes you, idealists, just as once 
knights were astounded to hear that villains also demanded 
human rights. When Goethe was in Italy he compared the 
skull of the ancient ox with that of one of our days and dis- 
covered that the contemporary ox 'had thinner 'bones, and a 
larger cavity for the cerebral hemispheres. The ancient ox w,as, 
evidently, stronger than ours; but the Latter attained greater 
cerebral development during his peaceful submission to man. 
What makes you think that man is less capable of develop- 
ment than the ox? This growth of the species is not, as you 
suppose, the goal but an inherent attribute of a continuous line 
of -generations. 106 The goal of every generation is the genera- 
tion itself. So far from using the generation as a means for 
attaining a future result, nature is not, indeed, concerned 
about the future at all. It is prepared, like Cleopatra, to dis- 
solve a pearl in wine if only for the momentary pleasure it 
gives. At heart nature is a bayadere and a bacchante." 

"And the poor thing cannot find her vocation! A bacchante on 
an invalid's diet, a bayadere in mourning!. . . In our days, it is 
true, she is more like the penitent Magdalene. Or, perhaps, it 
is the brain that is to blame because it has developed in one 
direction?" 

"Your desire to be sarcastic has led you to say something 
much more sensible than you realize. One-sided development 



364 A. HER ZEN 

is always -accompanied by the avortement of other neglected 
sides. Children, over- developed intellectually, are physically 
weak; ages of unnatural living conditions have developed in 
us idealism, artificiality, and upset our moral balance. We 
wore big i and strong, even happy in the isolation of our theo- 
retical beatitude; now we have passed that stage and have 
found it insupportable; but in the meantime it has brought 
about a frightful rupture with practical spheres. Neither side 
can be blamed for that. Nature has done its utmost to let man 
pass the stage of the beast. Man, in his turn, took a step that 
put one of his legs completely out of the sphere of nature. And he 
did this because he was free. We speak -so much about freedom; 
we are so proud of it and, at the same time, are vexed that 
nobody undertakes to lead us by the hand, that we stumble iand 
pay for the consequences of our 'acts. I am ready to say, like 
you, that the brain developed in one direction, that is, 
away from the influence of idealism; peopl-e are now growing 
aware of this and are tending in this direction; they are being 
cured of idealism in the same way that they were cured of 
other historic maladies such as chivalry, Catholicism, Protes- 
tantism. 1 ' 

"But you must agree, at least, that the path of development 
through maladies -and deviations is most singular." 

"Yes, the path is not marked out. Nature has traced its 
designs very faintly, in the broadest outlines, leaving -all the 
details to the inclination of people, circumstances, climate, to 
a thousand of accidental clashes. 107 Struggle, the interaction 
of natural forces and conscious power, the result of which it 
is impossible to know beforehand, lends each historic epoch 
absorbing interest. If mankind went straight to any particular 
goal, that would be not history but logic; mankind would stop 
ready for immediate status quo, like animals. All this, for- 
tunately, is impassible, futile, and worse than what exists. 
The animal organism develops its instinct little by little. In 
man this -development goes further it attains reason, though 
slowly and with difficulty. Reason does not exist either in 
.nature or outside of it; it has to be attained, to be somehow 
adjusted, for there exists no ready libretto to follow. And if it 
did, history would become dull, unnecessary, and ridiculous. 



FROM THE OTHER SHORE 365 

The grief of Tacitus and the enthusiasm of Columbus would 
become a farce, plain tomfoolery; great people would all de- 
scend to the level of the same footlights and become like the- 
atrical heroes who, regardless of how good or bad their per- 
formance is, will invariably continue -down to the end known 
beforehand. In history everything is unpremeditated, every- 
thing is free, everything is ex tempore. There are no limits 
ahead, no itineraries. There are merely the conditions, the fire 
of life, the sacred unrest, and the everlasting challenge to the 
combatants to test their strength, to take any road they please, 
wherever there is a road -and where none exists, genius will 
pave it." 108 

"But, if, unfortunately, there is no Columbus at hand?" 

"Cortes will take his place. Men of genius are almost -always 
to be found when the need for them arises. Incidentally, they 
are not indispensable. People will get there later, by taking a 
more difficult road. Genius is a poetic extravagance of nature, 
its coup d'etat, its great leap, the triumph of its effort." 

"That is all very well, but it seems to me that with things 
so vague, so amorphous, history may continue for ages or else 
come to an end tomorrow." 

"Undoubtedly. People will not die of boredom if the human 
race lasts for a long time. It is likely, though, that people will 
come up against the limitations inherent in human nature, 
against those insurmountable physiological conditions which 
characterize man. Anyway, there will be no lack of work or 
occupations. Three-quarters of what we do is a repetition of 
what has been done by others before us. Thus you see that 
history can continue for millions of years. On the other hand 
I have no objection to history terminating tomorrow. Who can 
foretell the future? The Encke's comet may brush against the 
globe; geological cataclysms may convulse the surface and 
stand things up on end; some gaseous emanations may make 
breathing impossible for half an hour and there you have the 
end of history." 

"Tut, tut, what a frightful picture you are drawing! You try to 
frighten me with a nightmare, but I assure you that that will not 
happen. Was it worth while -developing for three thousand 
years to arrive at the pleasant prospect of asphyxiation by 



366 A. HERZEN 

.some sulphurous gases! How can you be blind to anything so 
absurd?" 

"It amazes me that you have not yet grown (accustomed to 
the ways of life. In nature, as in the soul of man, there slum- 
bers an infinite multitude of forces >and possibilities; ias soon 
>as the conditions larise necessary to 'awaken them, they will 
develop -and will continue to develop to the nth degree; they 
are ready to fill the world but they might stumble on the way, 
take a different direction or stop or even collapse. The death 
of a single person is no less an absurdity than the destruction 
of the entire human race. Who has guaranteed us that our 
planet will exist perpetually? It will be just as incapable of 
withstanding a revolution in the solar system as the genius of 
Socrates was incapable of withstanding the hemlock. But sup- 
pose it is not asked to drink of the hemlock? Perhaps and 
that was my starting-point. Actually, it makes no difference to 
nature: it will not diminish; nothing can be detracted from it. 
Change nature as much as you like, yet everything will remain 
within it and, after burying the human race, it will most 
lovingly start 'anew with its monstrous ferns and lizards half 
a mile long, but with some improvements, taken from the new 
environment and from the new conditions." 

"Well, that is far from being a matter of indifference to 
people. I think that the 'imperious Caesar* would not have 
derived the least pleasure from learning that he has turned to 
clay and might stop a hole as Hamlet says." 

"In so far as Alexander the Great is .concerned, I can reas- 
sure you: he will never discover it. Of course, a person is by 
no means indifferent to whether he is alive or dead; conse- 
quently, we rmay conclude that one should profit by life, by the 
present. It is not for nothing that nature constantly calls on 
us, in all its languages, to enjoy life, and whispers in every 
ear its vivero memento' 1 

"All for nothing. We remember that we are alive by the 
great pain, the grief that grips our heart, iand the monotonous 
ticking of the hours. 109 . . . How can we enjoy ourselves, forget 
ourselves when we know that the world is tumbling about our 
ears and, consequently, will crush us, too. But that, in itself, is 
-not so terrible. It is still worse to die of old age and see that 



FROM THE OTHER SHORE 367 

the dilapidated, tottering walls don't show the least signs of 
falling. I know no such stifling time in history: there were 
struggles and suffering before, too, but there was also some 
compensation: one could die, iat least, for an idea. We have 
nothing to die for or to live for. Could you find a better time 
to enjoy life?" 

"And you think that life in decadent Rome was easier?" 

"Certainly. Its decline was just as evident as the world 
which was (arising in its place." 110 

"Evident to whom? Do you really think that the Romans 
saw their times through our eyes? Even Gibbon could not help 
leeling the spell which ancient Rome casts on -every strong 
mind. Remember how many generations its agony lasted; for 
us this time is foreshortened -by 'a dreary monotony of events 
and by a poverty of outstanding personalities. It is precisely 
such mute, colourless periods that are oppressive to contem- 
poraries. Every year consisted exactly of those same 365 days; 
and then, too, there were people with ardent hearts, iand they 
wasted away iand were bewildered by the fall of collapsing 
walls. What heart-rending cries then escaped out of the breasts 
of mankind! Their groans now make us shudder!" 

"They could have been baptized." 

"The -position of the Christians was then equally sad: they 
had hidden in the catacombs for four centuries. Success 
seemed impossible and the victims innumerable." 

"But a fanatic faith maintained them -and it was ultimately 
justified." 

"And heresy appeared on the day following their triumph; 
the pagan world forced itself into the saintly quiet of their 
fraternity, and the Christians looked tearfully back to the d-ays 
of their persecutions, blessing their memory and reading the 
martyrology." 

"It seems that you offer me the consoling thought that it has 
always been as bad as it is now." 

"No. I only wanted to remind you that our age has no 
monopoly on suffering and that you rate too cheaply the suf- 
fering of the past. Thought was impatient hitherto as well; it 
wants immediate results, iand finds waiting repulsive, while 
life, dissatisfied with abstract ideas, procrastinatesfor once 



368 A. HER ZEN 

a step is taken, it is difficult to rectify it. Therein lies the 
tragedy of thinking people But to avoid another digres- 
sion, let me ask you now what makes you think that the world 
around us is so stable and durable?. . ." 

Heavy drops of rain had long been falling on us. The rum- 
bling peals of thunder grew more and more distinct. The light- 
ning became more dazzling and the rain turned into a down- 
pour. Everybody made for their cabins. The ship creaked, 
pitched unsupportably, -and the conversation came to an end. 

Roma, Via del Corso 
December 31, 1847 

II 
AFTER THE STORM 1 " 

TOGETHER we have lived through those frightful, ignoble June 
days. And it is to you I dedicate the first sobs which -escaped 
my breast after those events. Yes, sobs! I iam not ashamed of 
-my tears! Do you remember Rachel singing the Marseillaise? 
The moment has now come when we oan truly appreciate it. 
All Paris sang the Marseillaise blind beggars and Grisi, 1 ^ 
street urchins and soldiers. The Marseillaise, as a journalist 
has put it, .became the Pater Noster since February 24. The 
sounds have only just died out an ctat de siege is not a 
healthy time for them. After February 24 113 the Marseillaise 
was 'a cry of joy, of victory, of strength, a warning, a cry of 

power and triumph 

But Rachel's Maiseillaise was frightening, .and the crowd 
withdrew, crushed. Do you remember? That was the death toll 
rung during wedding festivities; that wias a reproach, ia sombre 
prophecy, a groan of despair rising amidst hope. Rachel's 
Marseillaise was a call to ia feast of blood iand revenge. Where 
flowers were being strewn, she flung down juniper branches. 
"This is not the exultant Marseillaise of forty-eight," good 
Frenchmen said, "it is the sombre chant of the reign of ter- 
tor." They were mistaken: there was no such song in '93. It 
could be born in the breast of an artist only on the eve of the 
crime of June and after the treachery of February 24. 



FROM THE OTHER SHORE 369 

Do you remember her appearance on the stage? Slender, 
dressed in a white blouse, without a single jewel, her 
he-ad supported on her hand, she walked on slowly, -and, with 

a sombre look in her eyes, began to sing under her breath 

The poignant sorrow of these sounds verged on despair. It was 
a call to 'battle; but without the faith that it would rally 
anyone to its banners. It was a prayer; it was the voice of 
conscience. And, suddenly, from that weak breast burst forth 
a wail, a cry of rage and passion 

Aux armes, citoyensl. . . 

Qu'un sang impur abreuve nos sitlons 

she added in the implacable voice of the executioner. 
As if amazed by her own passion, she began the second 
stanza even more softly, more disheartened, and again 

came the call to battle, to bloodshed For a moment the 

woman in her became supreme she dropped to her knees, 
the piercing call softening down to a prayer; love triumphed 

and she wept as she pressed the banner to her breast 

Amour sacre de la patrie!. . . Then she became ashamed of 
herself; she jumped up and ran out, waving the banner and 
crying: "Aux armes, citoyens!. . ." Not even once did the audi- 
ence dare to re-call her. 

This article, which I dedicate to you, is my Marseillaise. 
Farewell! Read these lines to our friends. Do not be unhappy! 
Farewell! I dare not call you by your name nor sign my own. 
In the country you are going to it is a crime to weep and a 
sin to pity tears. 

Paris, August 1, 1848 

* * * 

Pereat! 

Women cry to ease their hearts; that consolation is denied 
us. For me writing must take the place of tears. I am writ- 
ing not to describe or to explain the bloody events, but simply 
to speak of them, to give vent to words, thoughts to my bit- 
terness. What place is here for description, for a collection of 
facts, for judgement? I can still hear the sound of gunshots, 
the thud of cavalry galloping by, the hollow, dismal sounds of 



370 A. HER ZEN 

the gun-carriages rolling along the deserted streets. Snatches 
of scenes flash through my mind: a wounded man on a stretch- 
er presses a hand to his side, the blood trickling down it; 
omnibuses filled with dead bodies; prisoners with arms bound; 
cannons in the Place de la Bastille; the encampments at Porte 
St. Denis, on the Champs-Elysees and the mournful oall of 

the night "Sentinelle, prenez garde a vous " What talk can 

there be of description! The brain is too heated, the blood too 
bitter. 

It is enough to kill you or drive you mad to 'have to sit in 
a room with arms folded, without being able to go outside and 
yet to hear everywhere, near and far, gunshots, cannonades, 
cries, the roll of drums, and to know that somewhere near by 
blood is being shed, that people are being knifed, bayoneted 
dying. I did not die, but I have <aged. I am recovering from 
those June days as if 'after a grave illness. 

And how solemnly they began! On the twenty-third, about 
Tour o'clock, I was tajking a walk before dinner-time, along 
the banks of the Seine, bound for the Hotel de Ville. The shops 
were being shut up. Sinister-looking National Guards were 
walking in various directions. The sky was overcast >and it 
was drizzling. ... I stopped >at Pont-Neuf. A flash of lightning 
burst out of the cloud; one peal of thunder followed (another, 
and above them could be heard the regular, prolonged tolling 
of the bell of Saint-Sulpice's the proletariat, agiain betrayed, 
was calling its brothers to arms. The cathedral and all the 
buildings along the embankment were strangely lit up by 
several rays of the sun which had pierced the clouds. The drum 
beats rolled in from all sides; the 'artillery was moving from 
the Place du Carrousel. 114 

I listened to the thunder and the tocsin -and could not tear 
my eyes "away from the panorama of Paris I seemed to be 
taking leave of it. I passionately loved Paris at that moment; 
that was my last tribute to the great city: after the June days 
it became repugnant to me. 

Barricades were being built in all the lanes and streets on 
the opposite bank of the river. Even now I can see the sombre 
faces of those who were carrying stones, children and women 
helping them. A young engineering student mounted one of 



FROM THE OTHER SHORE 371 

the barricades, evidently completed, planted the banner on it, 
and began to sing the Marseillaise softly in a voice full of sad 
solemnity. Everybody working there joined in, tand this mag- 
nificent song, resounding from behind the barricade, wrung 
the heart. . . . The bell continued to toll. In the meantime the 
artillery rolled on to the bridge and General Bedeau 115 swept 
his field glasses over the enemy position. 

There was still time then to prevent what followed; it was 
still possible to save the republic and the freedom of all 
Europe. It was still possible to make peace. The imbecile and 
blundering government was incapable of this; the Assembly 
did not desire it; the reactionaries called for revenge, for 
blood, for atonement for February 24, and the strong-boxes of 
the National 11 * furnished them with the agents to do the work. 

Now, what do you say, my dear Prince Radetzky 117 iand you, 
your excellency, Count Paskevich-Erivansky? 11 ^ You are unfit 
to serve under Cavaignac. Metternich and all the members 
of the Third Department in his chancellery are bons enfants 
compared to the -assembly of enraged shopkeepers. 

On the evening of June 26, after the victory of the National 
over Paris, we heard salvoes with brief, regular intervals be- 
tween them. . . . We glanced at each other; everybody was 
green in the face. "These are executions," we said in unison 
and looked away. I pressed my forehead to the window-pane. 
Such moments kindle hatred for ia dozen of years, call -for life- 
long vengeance. Woe betide those who forgive such moments! 

After the slaughter which lasted four days, quiet was re- 
stored. It was a truce during a stage of siege. The streets were 
still cordoned off and only very occasionally could you meet 
a carriage. Arrogant National Guards, with ferocious, bestial 
faces, guarded their shops, brandishing bayonets and butt- 
ends. Hilarious crowds of drunken militia marched up an$ 
down the boulevards, singing "Mourir pour la patrie"u* boys 
of sixteen and seventeen bragged of their brothers' blood, 
caked dry on their hands; middle-class tradeswomen, running 
out of their shops to hail the conquerors, pelted them with 
flowers. Cavaignac paraded in his carriage some scoundrel 
who had killed dozens of Frenchmen. The bourgeoisie were 
triumphant. And in the meantime the houses in the suburbs 



372 A. HER ZEN 

of Saint-Antoine were still burning. The shelled walls col- 
lapsed and the exposed interior revealed stone wounds, broken 
furniture smouldering, glittering pieces of shattered mir- 
rors But where were the owners, the tenants? No one gave 

them a thought. Sand had been sprinkled here and there, but 
the blood s'howed through tail the same. The Pantheon, 
damaged by shells, was closed to the public. Tents had been 
pitched along the boulevards; horses nibbled the carefully 
tended trees of the Champs-Elysees; the Place de la Concorde 
was littered with hay, the cuirasses of the cavalry and saddles 
were lying about. Soldiers cooked soup near the railing of 
the Jardin des Tuileries. Paris saw nothing like it even 
in 1814. 

A few more days passed and Paris began to assume its 
usual iaspect: crowds of idlers again made their appearance 
on the boulevards; fashionably dressed women in carriages 
and cabriolets came to have a look at the scene of ruins and 
the signs of desperate battle. The frequent patrols and columns 
of prisoners alone called to mind those terrible days. Only 
then did the situation begin to -clear up. You will find in Byron 
a description of a battle waged at night. Its details are veiled 
by the darkness. At dawn, long after the battle has ended, you 
can see what has been left behind: a sword here, a blood- 
soaked rag there. This was the dawn that invaded the soul; it 
threw light on the frightful havoc. Half of our hopes, half 
of our faith were done to death; ideas of renunciation, of 
despair passed through the mind and took root. Who 
could have thought that our soul, which had been so sorely 
tried by existing scepticism, still contained so much that was 
destructible? 

No living man can remain the same after such a blow. Ho 
either turns more religious, clinging desperately to his creed 
and finding a kind of consolation in despair, and, struck by 
the thunderbolt, his heart yet again sends forth new shoots. 
Or else, manfully, though reluctantly, he parts with his last 
illusions, taking an even more sober view and loosening his 
grip on the last withered leaves being whirled -away by the 
biting autumnal wind. 

Which is preferable? It is hard to say. 



FROM THE OTHER SHORE! 373 

One leads to the bliss of folly, the other to the.tfnjsery of 
knowledge. 

Make your own choice. One is extremely substantial (because 
it leaves you nothing; the other guarantees nothing, -but gives 
much. I prefer to know even if it deprives me of the last con- 
solation. I shall make -my way, a spiritual beggar, through the 
world, -my childish hopes and adolescent (aspirations uproot- 
ed. Let them all appear before the court of incorruptible 
reason. 

Man houses a permanent, revolutionary tribunal within 
himself, .an implacable Fouquier-Tinville, 120 and, even a guil- 
lotine. Sometimes judges fall asleep, the guillotine rusts, the 
false notions, outdated, romantic and feeble, come to life and 
make themselves at home when all of -a sudden some terrific 
blow rouses the heedless judge tand the dozing executioner, 
and then comes the savage retribution, for the slightest conces- 
sion, the slightest mercy or pity shown leads back to the past 
and leaves the chains intact. There is no choice: either execute 
and go forward, or grant a reprieve and stop midway. 

Who doesn't remember his own logical romance, who doesn't 
remember how the first seeds of doubt, of the audacious in- 
vestigation entered his heart, and how there they grew riotous- 
ly until they reached its innermost recesses? That is precisely 
what it means to stand before the terrible court of the mind. 
It is not as easy as it seems to execute one's convictions: it is 
hard to part company with thoughts which grew up with us, 
and beoamo part of us, which cherished and consoled us; how 
ungrateful it would be to give them up! Yes, but there is no 
gratitude at that tribunal; nothing is held sacred, and if the 
revolution, like Saturn, devours its own children, then nega- 
tion, like Nero, assassinates its own mother to disembarrass 
itself of the past. People are afraid of their logic and, having 
rashly summoned to court the church, the state, the family 
and morality, good and evil, they endeavour to save some 
scraps, fragments of the old. While rejecting Christianity, they 
retain immortality of the soul, idealism, providence. And so 
people who have marched together, here part ways: some go 
to the right, others to the left. And still others come to -a stand- 
still; like mileposts, they show how much ground has been 



374 A. HERZEN 

covered. But there are those who discard the last ballast of 
the past and march boldly forward. In passing from the old 
world to the new, one can take nothing -along. 

Reason, like the Convention, is inexorable and impartial. It 
recoils at nothing, and demands that the most supreme being 
should be placed on the prisoners' bench the good king of 
theology is to have his January 2 1. 121 This trial is like the one 
over Louis XVI, the touchstone for Girondins. All that is weak 
and incomplete either flees or lies; either does not vote at all 
or else votes without conviction. Meanwhile those who -pro- 
nounced the sentence believe that with the execution of the 
king there is nothing more to condemn; that from January 22 
onwards they shall have ia republic, all ready land perfect. As 
if -atheism was enough in itself to do aw.ay with religion; ias 
if the execution of Louis XVI was enough to do taway with 
monarchy. There is an /astounding similarity between the 
phenomenology of terror and logic. Terror began right after 
the execution of the king; following him on to the scaffold 
came the noble sons of the revolution: brilliant, eloquent, 
feeble. We pity them but there wias no saving them, <and their 
heads fell; after them rolled the leonine head of Danton and 
that of Gamille Desmoulins, the pet of the revolution. Now, 
et long last, is it all over? No, now it is the turn of the incor- 
ruptible executioners; they will be executed because they be- 
lieved in the possibility of democracy being established in 
France, because they put men to death in the name of equal- 
ity; yes, they were executed like Anacharsis Cloots 1122 who 
dreamed of the fraternity of peoples -a few diays before the 
Napoleonic epoch, and a few years before the Vienna Con- 
gress. 1 ! 23 

There will be no .liberty in the world until everything reli- 
gious and political is transformed into something human, 
simple, subject to criticism -and negation. Logic which has 
reached maturity finds oanoniz-ed doctrines detestable; it un- 
frocks these saints iand makes them hurran; it transforms 
sacred mysteries into plain truths; it holds nothing sacred and 
if the republic claims those rights that were held by the mon- 
archy, it despises the republic -as it did the monarchy. Nay, 
infinitely more! There is no sense in monarchy it maintains 



FROM THE OTHER SHORE 375 

itself by violence; while the very name "republic" -makes the 
heart beat faster. Monarchy is in itself a religion, while the 
republic has no mystic apologies, no divine rights, it is on our 
own level. It is not enough to hate the crown; one must equal- 
ly lose one's veneration for the Phrygian cap; it is not enough 
to hold that lese-majeste a crime. One must realize that salus 
populi is also a crime. It is time that man brought to the bar 
of justice the republic, legislation, representation, -all concepts 
of the citizen and his relation to others and to the state. 124 
There will be many executions: one must be ready to sacrifice 
what is near and dear. It -doesn't require very much to sacri- 
fice what we detest! What is hard is to sacrifice what we love 
once we lare convinced that it is not the truth. Therein lies the 
real task. We are to be executors of the past. It is not for us 
to gather the fruit! To us is left the task of persecuting and 
identifying the past no matter what disguise it assumes and 
of executing it and laying it on the altar of the future. It 
triumphs in fiact let us, in the name of human thought, kill 
it in idea, in conviction. No concessions to ianyone! The tri- 
colour of concessions is no good, for it will take ia long time 
before the blood of the June days comes off. And whom, indeed, 
shall we spare? All ihe elements of the crumbling world ap- 
pear in all their wretched absurdity and repulsive folly. What 
is it you respect: surely not a government of the people? 
Whom is it you pity? Surely not Paris? 

For three whole months people, elected by universal suf- 
frage, elected by all of France, did absolutely nothing and 
suddenly rose to their feet in order to show the world an 
amazing spectacle 800 men acting as one huge monster. 
Blood flowed like water but not a word did they find of love 
or conciliation; everything human and generous was over- 
shadowed by the clamour for revenge and fury. The voice of 
the dying Affre 125 could not move this many-tongued Caligula, 
this Bourbon changed into copper coins. They pressed to their 
heart the National Guards who shot down the unarmed. 
Senard 126 blessed Cavaignac, and Cavaignac was moved to 
tears as he carried out all the crimes indicated by the judicial 
finger of the representatives. In the meantime the formidable 
minority went in hiding. The Mountain hid behind the clouds 



376 A. UERZEN 

content that it had not been executed or sent to rot in the dun- 
geons. It silently suffered citizens to be disarmed -and decrees 
on deportation to be passed; people to be imprisoned for any- 
thing in the world, and especially for refusing to shoot their 
own brothers. 

Murder -became, in these fearful days, ia duty; he who did 
not stain his hands with the blood of the proletariat, became 
suspect to the middle class. The majority, -at least, had the 
courage of their crimes. And those wretched friends of the peo- 
ple, those rhetoricians, those blank hearts? There was one 
courageous outcry, one great outburst of indignation, -and that 
was uttered outside the Assembly Chamber. The terrible curse 
of old Lamennais 127 fell on the head of the heartless cannibals 
and showed up all the more plainly on the brow of the cowards 
who, in uttering the word "republic," were terrified by its 
meaning. 

Paris! How long has this name been a lodestar to people! 
Who did not love and worship it? But its time has passed. Let 
it leave the stage. In the June days it engaged in a bitter con- 
test which it cannot consummate. Paris has aged and its 
youthful dreams no longer become it. Rejuvenation calls -for 
great shocks: massacres of Saint Bartholomew, the days of 
September. However, the horrors of June did not bring about 
recovery. Where will this decrepit vampire obtain more blood 
of the just, that blood which, on June 27, reflected the fire of 
the lampions lit by (he exultant middle class? Paris adores 
playing soldiers. It made an emperor of a lucky soldier; it ap- 
plauded a monstrosity named victory; it erected statues. After 
fifteen years it again placed the bourgeois figure of the little 
corporal on a pedestal; it reverentially brought back the ashes 
of the founder of slavery. Now, too, it hoped to find in soldiers 
the anchor of salvation against freedom and equality; it sum- 
moned the savage hordes of Africans to fight its brothers so 
as not to share the spoils with them, and cut and stabbed with 
the steady hand of the assassin. Let it, then, pay for its -deeds 
and its errors. 

Paris shot people without trial. . . . What will be the out- 
come of this bloodshed? who knows? But whatever it is, it 
is enough that in this fury of madness, of revenge, of conflict 



FROM THE OTHER SHORE 377 

and retribution, the world which stands in the way of the new 
man, preventing him from living and establishing the future, 
will fall. And this is splendid! So, long live chaos and de- 
struction! 

Vive la mortf 

And let the future come! 

Paris, July 27, 1848 

III 

THE LVIIth YEAR OF THE REPUBLIC, 
THE ONE AND INDIVISIBLE 128 

Ce n'est pas le socialisme, c'est 
la republique! 

Speech by Ledru-Rollin in Chalet 
October 22, 1848 

THE FIRST of Vendemiaire 1857 was celebrated some days ago. 
All the aristocrats of the democratic republic, the crim- 
son of the Convention, gathered in Chalet at the Champs- 
Elysees. Towards the end of the dinner, Ledru-Rollin 
delivered <a brilliant speech which, replete with red roses for 
the republic -and thorns for the .government, was >a complete 
and well-deserved success. His speech ended with cries of 
"Vive la Republique democraiiquer All arose and sang the 
Marseillaise in unison, solemnly, iand with heads bared. Ledru- 
Rollin's words, the sounds of the revered song of liberation 
and the wine animated all faces; eyes were shining, all the 
more so that not everything fermenting in the heads escaped 
from the lips. The drum of the damp iat Champs-Elysees was 
a reminder that the enemy was near, that there was a state 
of siege, and that the military dictatorship was still nampant. 
The greater part of the guests were people still in the prime 
of life, but who had more or less tried their mettle on the po- 
litical arena. Conversation was lively and heated. How much 
energy, daring, iand nobleness there is in the French who have 
not yet suppressed the good elements of their national charac- 
ter or have already escaped from the petty, sordid, philistine 



378 A. HER ZEN 

environment which covers the whole of France like slime. What 
manly, determined faces, what precipitous readiness to trans- 
late words into action, to go into battle and under fire, to be 
executioner or executed! For a long time I watched them, iand 
gradually tan ineffable melancholy arose within me and over- 
shadowed -all my thoughts: I felt the deepest pity for this 
handful of men, so noble and -devoted, intelligent and gifted, 
the flower of the generation. Do not think, however, that I 
pitied them because they might not live to see or because in 
a week they might perish on the barricades, in the galleys, in 
exile, or on the guillotine; or because they might be shot in 
the new fashion with their hands tied, in some corner of Place 
du Carrousel or -at the outer fortifications. All this was very 
sad, of course, but that was not why I was sorry for them. The 
reason lay deeper. 

I pitied their sincere delusion, their implicit faith in unattain- 
able things, their ardent aspirations as pure and as chimerical 
as the knighthood of Don Quixote. I pitied them as ia physician 
might his patient unsuspecting the fatal disease within him. 
How much moral suffering lies in store for them: they will fight 
like heroes, will labour until they die, and fall short of success. 
They will sacrifice their blood, their strength and, grown old, 
they will see that it has all been in vain, that they have not 
done what they should have done; and they will die assailed 
by bitter doubts in man, who is not at all to blame. Or still 
worse, they will lapse into childishness and will daily wait, as 
they are doing now, for a tremendous change: the advent of 
their republic mistaking the agony of the dying for the throes 
of birth. The republic, as they conceive it, is an abstract and 
scarcely feasible idea, the fruit of theoretical conjectures, the 
apotheosis of the existing order, the transfiguration of that 
which is; their republic is the last dream, the poetic ravings of 
the old world. There is something prophetic in these ravings 
too, but this prophecy concerns the life beyond the grave, the 
life of the age to come. This is what they, the people of the 
past, who are bound to the old world for better or for worse, 
cannot understand for all their revolutionary spirit. They 
imagine that this senile decrepit world -might become rejuve- 
nated like Ulysses and are oblivious to the fact that the reali- 



FROM THE OTHER SHORE 379 

ziation of <a single point of their republic will instantly kill the 
old world. They do not know that there is no sharper contra- 
diction than that between their ideal and the existing order, 
that the one must die so that the other may live. They cannot 
escape the old forms, they mistake them for eternal bounda- 
ries -and therefore their idea bears only the name and colour 
of the future and belongs, at bottom, to the world of the piast 
and by no means renounces it. 

Why do they not know this? 

Their fatal error consisted in that they were carried iaway 
by love for their fellow-man and freedom, by their impatience 
and indignation. They hastened to liberate the people before 
they were themsehes liberated. They were strong enough to 
tear asunder the heavy iron chains, but they never noticed that 
ther walls of the prison had remained intact. Indeed, they 
wanted to leave them so and only to put them to another use; 
as though prison walls c'ould serve the free. 

The senile Catholico-feudal world has produced all the mod- 
ifications it is capable of; it has developed in all directions, 
achieving the highest degree of the beautiful iand of the ugly 
to the point of revealing all the truth iand -all the falsehood 
that it contains. It has exhausted itself at last. It might still 
survive for long, but it cannot be regenerated. Social thought 
now >at work is such that every step towards its realization 
constitutes an egress! And that is the difficulty! Where to? 

What lies beyond those walls? Fearful void, space, freedom 

How to go on without knowing where? How to lose without 
the hope of gain? If Columbus had reasoned this way he would 
never have set sail. What madness to rove the unchartered 
seas in -search of lands the existence of which is dubious! Yet 
thanks to this madness he discovered the new world. Of course 
it would have been easier if people could have merely moved 
from one hotel garni to another still more comfortable, but 
unfortunately there is no one to prepare the new apartments. 
The future is even more uncertain than the sea: there is noth- 
ing in sight -and it will turn out to be such as people and cir- 
cumstances will make it. 

If you are satisfied with the old world, try to preserve it: it 
is in a bad state indeed and won't last long with such themors 



380 A, HER ZEN 

as that of February 24. But if you cannot endure the con- 
stant discord of convictions and life, of thinking the one thing 
and doing 'another, then take the risk tand step out of the white- 
washed medieval vaults. Valorous daring is sometimes better 
than wisdom. I very well know that it is not easy: it is no 
trifle to part with everything man has grown accustomed to 
from the cradle, with everything familiar from childhood. The 
people in question -are ready for terrible sacrifices, but not for 
those which the new life requires of them. Are they ready to 
sacrifice modern civilization, their way of life, their religion 
and moral conventions? Are they ready to be deprived of all 
the fruits grown so painstakingly, of which we have been so 
proud for three centuries and which -are so dear to our hearts? 
Are they ready to be deprived of iall the enjoyments and con- 
veniences of life, to prefer raw youth to polished senility, un- 
tilled soil and impenetrable forests to exhausted fields and cul- 
tivated p'arks? Are they ready to pull down their hereditary 
castle from sheer enjoyment of participating in the laying of 
the foundation of a new edifice which will doubtlessly be fin- 
ished long after we are gone? Many would say that this is the 
question of a madman. Yet this question w-as once raised by 
Christ, only in other words. 

The liberals dallied and jested with the idea of revolution 
until they joked themselves into February 24. The popular 
hurricane carried them to the top of the belfry whence they 
could see where they were going and leading others. And the 
chasm they saw before them made them blanch for they .saw 
that not only that which they had regarded as prejudice was 
tumbling but all the rest as well, the things they had regarded 
ias true and eternal. So frightened were they that some of them 
clutched -at the tumbling walls while others halted midway, 
remorsefully (assuring all p>assers-by that this was not at all 
what they had wanted. And thus the very people who pro- 
claimed the republic came to be the hangmen of freedom. That is 
why liberals whose names had been ringing in our ears for 
twenty years became retrograde deputies, traitors and inquis- 
itors. They call for liberty and even a republic in their own 
literary and cultivated circles, but upon leaving them turn into 
conservatives. Thus the rationalists were fond of explaining 



FROM THE OTHER SHORE 381 

the mysteries of religion, of disclosing the 'Significance and 
meaning of mythology; but where this would lead they never 
guessed. Little did they think that their researches which -be- 
gan with fear of God would end in atheism, that their criti- 
cism of the sacred rites would lead to the denial of religion. 

From the time of the Restoration the liberals of all countries 
called upon the people to overthrow the monarchic feudal sys- 
tem for the sake of equality, the tears of the wretched, the 
suffering of the oppressed, iand the starvation of the destitute. 
They demanded the impossible of the ministers and rejoiced 
in spurring them on until they collapsed; they rejoiced when 
one feudal mainstay fell -after another. Their emotions ran 
aw-ay and carried them far beyond the limits of their own de- 
sires. They came to their senses only when amid the half- 
ruined wialls they espied a proletarian not <a proletarian in 
books, in parliamentary twaddle, or in philanthropic har- 
angues, but in stark reality, <a workman with an axe in rude 
hands, tattered and starved. This unfortunate and disinherited 
brother of whom so much had been said and who had been so 
deeply pitied now demanded his .share in the blessings, his 
freedom, his equality, and his fraternity. Aghast at his imper- 
tinence 'and ingratitude, the liberals took the streets of Paris 
by assault, strewed them with corpses and hid from their 
brother behind the bayonets of martial law, thereby preserving 
civilization and order. 

They are right, but not consistent. Why had they previously 
undermined the monarchy? How could they have failed to re- 
alize that having destroyed monarchism, the revolution could 
not slop tat ejecting one dynasty or -another? They rejoiced 
like children over the fact that Louis Philippe had hardly gone 
as far as Saint-Cloud, when a new government arose at Hotel 
de Ville and things took their natural course; yet the very facil- 
ity of the coup d'etat should have shown them how unsub- 
stantial it was. The liberals were satisfied, but the people were 
not and raised their voices: they repeated the words and prom- 
ises of the liberals who now like Peter thrice foreswore both 
words and promises -and began killing as soon as they saw 
that matters took a serious turn. It was thus that Luther <and 
Calvin drowned the Anabaptists, that the Protestants renounced 



382 A, HER ZEN 

Hegel and that the Hegelians renounced Feuerbach. Such 
indeed is the lot of all reformers: they only build pontoon 
bridges for the people 'aroused by them to crass to the opposite 
shore. There is no medium which they prefer to the constitu- 
tional twilight of the indefinite neither here nor there. It was 
in this unchanged world of debates, discords and irreconcil- 
able contradictions that these vain people wanted to realize 
their pia desideria of freedom, equality and fraternity. 129 

The forms of European civics, its civilization, its good iand 
evil conform to a different essence. They have developed from 
different concepts and have been shaped to suit different 
needs. Those forms were modifiable to a certain degree, but 
only to a certain degree, as -everything in life. The organism 
may be influenced iand changed; it may deviate from its pur- 
pose and adjust itself to the environmental influences inas- 
much as these deviations do not contradict its individual 
features which constitute its personality. As soon as the or- 
ganism encounters these influences a conflict ensues in which 
the organism is either victorious or perishes. The phenomenon 
of death consists precisely in that the components of the or- 
ganism acquire another purpose: they do not perish while its 
personality does they enter into a different series of relations, 
of phenomena. 130 

By virtue of their inner conception the political forms of 
France and other European powers are not compatible with 
freedom, equality or fraternity: any realization of these ideas 
will constitute a denial of modern European life, will lead to 
its destruction. No constitution and no government can give 
true freedom and equality to the feudal monarchic states with- 
out razing everything that is feudal and monarchic. European 
life, Christian and aristocratic, has formed our civilization, 
our conceptions, our way of life. It cannot dispense with the 
Christian and aristocratic medium. In Catholic Rome, in sacri- 
legious Paris and in philosophizing Germany this medium 
was able to develop and preserve its essence in accordance 
with the spirit of the times and the degree of prevailing en- 
lightenment; but further than this one cannot go without over- 
stepping the boundaries. In some parts of Europe the people 
can be more free and equal than in others, but nowhere can 



FROM THE OTHER SHORE 383 

they be truly free and equal as long as this civic form, this 
civilization exists. All wise' conservatives have been aware of 
this and therefore have done their utmost to support the old 
scheme of society. Do you really think that Metternich and 
Guizot did not see the injustice of the social order which -sur- 
rounded them? But they also saw that these injustices were 
so intertwined with the entire organism that ope had only to 
touch them to upset the entire structure. Having realized this, 
they became the guards and supporters of status quo. The 
liberals for their part have removed all checks upon democ- 
racy, but now desire to return to the old order of things. Who 
is more consistent, then? 

It stands to reason that both are wrong at bottom. The Gui- 
zots and Metternichs and Cavaignacs: all of them committed 
real crimes for the sake of fictitious aims. They were oppres- 
sors, they spread ruin and shed blood to stave off death. Neither 
Metternieh with his intelligence nor Gavaignac with his sol- 
diers, nor the republicans with their short-sightedness could 
stem so strong a current. All they did was to litter the way 
with broken glass instead of making the passage easier. The 
people marching onward will find it more difficult. They will 
injure their feet, but will get through nonetheless. The power 
of social ideas is immense especially since they have begun 
to be understood by the genuine enemy, the legitimate enemy 
of the existing civic order, by the proletarian who suffered all 
the bitterness of this civic order and enjoyed none of its fruits. 
We are still loath to part with the old order of things and 
who should be loath to part with it more than we? It was for 
us that this order was built. We have been brought up by it, 
we are its favourite children; we admit that it has to die, but 
we cannot repress our tears. But what about the masses down- 
trodden by work, exhausted by hunger, and dulled by igno- 
rance what will they have to weep about at its funeral? They 
are the uninvited guests at the feast of life, the very 
ones of whom Malthus spoke, their oppression being a pre- 
requisite of our life. 

Our entire education, our literary and scientific development, 
our love of beauty and our preoccupations presuppose a back- 
ground constantly prepared and kept in order by others. Some- 



384 A. HERZEN 

one else's labour is necessary to secure us with leisure foi 
mental development that leisure, that active idleness whicl 
is conducive to the thinker's meditations, to the poet's rever 
ies and to the epicurean enjoyments, to the exuberant, capri- 
cious, poetic development of our aristocratic personalities. 

Who does not know what freshness is imparted to the spiri 
by carefree abundance? The poverty which produces a Gil- 
bert 131 is an exception. As a rule, poverty distorts the soul oi 
man no less than riches. Material cares lalone tend to crust 
ability. But can abundance be available to all under the mod- 
ern scheme of society? Our civilization is the civilization ol 
ia minority. It is possible only with a majority of navvies. 1 
am neither a moralist nor a sentimental person. I do 'believe 
that if the minority really felt well and at ease, while the 
majority were silent, this form of life was justified in the past 
I am not sorry for the twenty generations of Germans thai 
went to produce Goethe. I am glad that the corvee near 
the town of Pskov permitted the -education of Pushkin. Nature 
is inexorable: like a certain well-known shrub it is both mothei 
and stepmother. It does not mind if two-thirds of what it pro- 
duces goes to feed the one-third, providing the latter develops 
properly. When all cannot live well, let some live well, let one 
live at the expense of others, if only he obtains as much as 
he requires and can lead a happy and abundant life. Only 
from this point of view may aristocracy be understood. Aristoc- 
racy in general is a more or less civilized anthropophagy. A 
cannibal who eats his prisoner, a landlord who collects exorbi- 
tant rent, a factory owner who prospers at the expense of his 
workmen, are all but modifications of one and the same can- 
nibalism. Incidentally, I am ready to defend the most primi- 
tive anthropophagy: if one man regards himself as a meal and 
the other is intent on eating him, let him do so. Both deserve 
what they get: one to eat and the other to be eaten. 

As long as the educated minority consuming whole genera- 
tions barely realized why its life was so easy and -the majority 
working day and night did not quite realize that the whole ad- 
vantage of the work accrued to others and both considered 
this the natural course of events the world of an- 
thropophagy could stand. People often take a prejudice, <a 



FROM THE OTHER SHORE 385 

habit for the truth and then it -does not trammel them, but 
once they have realized that their truth is nonsense, the thing 
is over. Then only by sheer force is it possible to make man do 
what he regards as -absurd. Try to introduce fasting without 
religious faith. Impossible! Man will find it unendurable to 
fast, just as the believer will find it impossible to abstain from 
fasting. 

The workman no longer wants to work for someone else -and 
there you have the end of anthropophagy and the limit of 
aristocracy. If the course of events was delayed it was be- 
cause the workers had miscalculated their strength and the 
peasants were -backward. When the two join hands you will 
have to part with your leisure, with your luxuries and civili- 
zation. That will put an end to the consumption of the major- 
ity to provide an easy and luxurious existence for the minor- 
ity. As an idea, the exploitation of man by man is ended, for 
nobody regards this relation as just. 

Can this world withstand a social upheaval? In the name of 
what will it defend itself? Its religion is on the wane. The 
monarchic principle has lost its prestige and is buttressed by 
fear and violence, while the democratic principle is a cancer 
devouring this world from within. 

Depression and weariness, ennui and revulsion with life 
have become widespread together with convulsive attempts to 
find a way out. Life has become intolerable to all; and this 
is a great sign. 

Gone are the quiet musings HI the solitude of the artistic 
and scholarly pursuits of the Germans! Gone is the whirl of 
wit, merriment, liberalism, fashion and songs which once 
swept Paris. All this is memory, a thing of the past. The last 
attempt to rescue the world by rejuvenation without altering 
its basic principles has failed. 

Everything withers and dwindles to pigmy size on the ex- 
hausted soil: there are no talent, no creative work, no power 
of thought, no power of will. The world has outlived its hey- 
day. The day of Schiller and Goethe is gone, like the day of 
Raphael and Buonarctti, of Voltaire and Rousseau, of Mira- 
beau iand Danton. The brilliant industrial age has outlived its 
prime, iust -as the epoch of the nobility had done before. Every- 



386 A. HER ZEN 

one is growing poor -and no one richer. No credit is <to 'be had 
and all have come to live from hand to mouth. Life has grown 
more coarse, less elegant arid gracious. Everyone has grown 
penurious iand apprehensive. All have come to live like small 
shopkeepers. The customs of the petty bourgeoisie have come to 
be generally accepted. No one is inclined- to settle down per- 
manently: everything is temporary, unstable and "for rent." 
These are hard times, resembling the third century, when even 
the vices of ancient Rome were gone, when even the Caesars 
were lethargic and the legions slothful. So depressed were the 
energetic iand restless people that they hurled their -sacks of 
gold on to the squares and rushed off in crowds somewhere 
to the Thebaid Desert, parting for ever with their native land 
and their gods of old. This time is coming again; our -anguish 
is mounting. 

Repent, gentlemen, repent! The day of judgement has come. 
You cannot save the world by martial law, by establishing a 
republic, by executions, by philanthropy, nor even by allot- 
ment of land. The fate of the world would perhaps not be so 
melancholy if it were not defended with such zeal iand stub- 
bornness, with such hopeless bigotry. No truce will avail in 
France nowadays, for the warring parties can neither express 
themselves nor understand each other. They have two differ- 
ent logics, two different minds. When things come to such a 
pass there is no way out but battle; only one of the two must 
survive monarchy or socialism. 

Consider, which has the better chance? I will wager -for so- 
cialism. You think it difficult to conceive? But it was just as 
difficult to conceive of Christianity's triumph over Rome. I 
often imagine Tacitus and Pliny sagely discoursing with their 
friends about that ridiculous sect of Nazarenes, about those 
Pierre Leroux's, 1 ^ 2 come from Judaea with vigorous and half- 
mad speeches about the Proudhon of that day, who appeared 
in the streets of Rome to preach the end of the eternal city. 
The empire had towered proudly over these poor preachers but 
it crumbled away nonetheless. 

Cannot you see that the new Christians are coming to build 
and the new barbarians to destroy? Both are ready to do their 
work and are seething like molten lava in the depths of a 



, FROM THE OTHER SHORE 887 

volcano. When the hour strikes, Herculaneum and Pompeii 
shall vanish and the good iand the evil, the right and the 
wrong shall perish side by side. This will be neither judge- 
ment nor slaughter, but an upheaval, a cataclysm. This sea of 
law, the barbarians, the new world, the new Nazarenes ap- 
proaching to destroy the obsolete and important and to clear 
the site for the new and the vigorous, are nearer than you 
think. It is they who are dying from hunger and cold; it is 
their murmurs that we hear overhead -and below, in the gar- 
rets and the cellars; while we, all of us, au premier, toast 
each other in champagne and talk socialism. This is nothing 
new of course; it has always been that way; but no one has 
ever noticed that it is very stupid. 

"But why should the future come through barbaric dark- 
ness and not through progress, why should it be purchased at 
the cost of heavy losses? I am not sure, but it seems to me 
that the educated minority will be worse off if it lives to wit- 
ness the debacle and is not seasoned and hardened in the at- 
mosphere of new ideas. Though many may grow indignant 
over this, I find it consoling. To me it seems that the very 
inevitability of these losses is proof that every historic phase 
has its own, many-sided reality, its own individuality and 
that each such phase is an end and not merely the means to* 
an end; each phase, therefore, contains its own good, its bless- 
ings peculiar to itself alone, and which must perish with it. 
Do you really believe that the Roman aristocrats gained much 
in life when they embraced Christianity? Did not the aristo- 
crats of our time live better before the revolution than we da 
today?" 

"That is all very true, but the idea of ia sharp and violent 
change has something repulsive in it for many. Those who 
realized that the change is necessary would like it to take place 
by gradual stages. Even nature, they argue, as it evolved 
and grew richer and better arranged, ceased to resort to- 
cataclysms to which the earth's crust bears witness in the 
form of its. strata containing the bones of many successive 
species. The unperturbed, harmonious metamorphosis should 
be all the more probable in that stage of nature's evolution 
at which it has attained to consciousness." 



388 A, HER ZEN 

"Yes, but it has attained consciousness only within a few 
heads of the elite. The rest -are still striving towards it and 
are still subject to Naturgewalt's, to instincts, subconscious 
urges and passions. The fact that an idea is correct is not 
enough to convey this idea to another, sensible and clear 
though it may be to you. It is -also necessary that the brain 
of this other should be developed to your level, that it should 
be free from prejudice. How are you going to convince the 
workman that he should suffer poverty and hunger while the 
present scheme of society is undergoing gradual change? How 
are you going to convince a proprietor, a usurer, a factory 
owner that he must relinquish his monopolies 'and privileges? 
It is hard to imagine such altruism. What could be done has 
been done; the growth of the middle classes, the constitutional 
system is nothing more than an intermediary link between the 
feudal-monarchic and socio-republican world. The bourgeois 
concept combines this semi-liberation, this iaudacious sally 
against the past with the desire to inherit its power. It has 
worked for its own benefit and rightly so. Man does things 
seriously, in all earnest, only when he does it -for his own 
benefit. The bourgeoisie could by no means regard itself ias 
an ugly intermediary link. It has regarded itself as an end in 
itself, but since its moral principles tare petty and poorer than 
those of the past, whereas progress is constantly gaining in 
momentum, it is not surprising that the world of the bourgeoi- 
sie has soon come to be exhausted and contains no possibility 
of rejuvenation. And, finally, just imagine what gradual 
change might he like perhaps, the division of property some- 
thing after the pattern of the first revolution? The result will 
be that the entire world will become a wretched place to live 
in. The petty proprietor is the worst bourgeois of all and the 
forces latent in the suffering but mighty heart of the prole- 
tariat will be sapped. True enough, he will no longer be starv- 
ing, but he will come to a standstill on his plot of land or on 
his bunk at the workers' barracks. Such is the prospect held 
out by peaceful organic change. If this should come to pass 
then the mainstream of history will carve another bed; it will 
not vanish in the sands like the Rhine. Mankind will not pur- 



. FROM THE OTHER SHORE 883 

sue this narrow and miry path it requires a broad thorough- 
fare and will spare nothing to clear the way. 

"In nature conservatism is as strong as the revolutionary 
element. Nature permits the old -and superfluous to survive >as 
long as it can. Nonetheless, it -did not spare the mammoth 
and the mastodon to make their readjustments on earth. The 
change which destroyed those great animals w-as by no means 
directed against them. Could they have saved themselves, they 
would have done so only to degenerate peacefully in an incon- 
gruous environment. The miammoths whose bones iare found 
in the ice of Siberia probably did preserve themselves from 
the geological upheaval, but they were as out of place as 
Comnenus and Palaeologus would have been in the feudal 
world. Nature has -as little to do with this as has history. We 
foist upon it our sentimental personifications 'and passions; we 
mistake the metaphors of our language for the essence, for- 
getting that they are only metaphors. Unaware of their absurd- 
ity, we introduce the petty rules of our household into world 
economy to which the life of generations, of nations and even 
of the planets is unimportant if compared with general 
developments. Unlike us, representatives of the subjective 
principle who are fond of the personal alone, nature regards 
the destruction of the particular as the same play of necessity 
which prompted its origination. Nor has nature to be rueful 
of this, for from its vast embraces there is nothing that is lost,, 
no matter how changed. " 

October 1, 1848 
Champs-Elysees 

IV 
VIXERUNT!'33 

Mortem -moriendo desiruxit 
Easter Sunday Matin 

THE WEATHER was very bad on November 20, 134 1848; the 
fierce winds, hoarfrost and first snow since summer predicted 
the winter which was expected by the people of Paris tas 
a national disaster. The poor were again preparing to freeze 



390 A. HERZEN 

in their garrets with insufficient clothing and insufficient 
food. In these two icy months of frost land damp the death rate 
is mounting, and the workmen -are worn and ridden with fever. 

On this diay it seemed that the dawn would never come. 
Sleet fell continuously and there was mist as well; the wind tore 
at hats and wildly clutched at the hundreds of tricolours flying 
from the masts near the Place de la Concorde. The square was 
packed with troops and the Peoples' Guards. At the gates of 
the Tuileries Gardens a memorial was set up, topped with a 
cross. All the way from the gardens to the obelisk the square, 
cordoned by the troops, lay empty. The streets converging 
upon it were filled with the regiments of the regulars, of the 
mobiles, of the uhlans, the dragoons and the artillery. A new- 
comer would never have guessed what was happening. Was 
another king to be executed? Or had the country been de- 
clared in danger? Nothing of the sort. This was not a Janu- 
ary 21 for the king, but for the people, for the revolution: it 
was the funenal of February 24. 

Afiout nine in the morning a straggling group of elderly 
men made their way across the bridge; despondently they shuf- 
fled along with coat collars turned up and uncertainly side- 
stepping the puddles. There were two who walked at their 
head, one of them in an African water-proof nearly concealing 
his hard, austere features reminiscent of the medieval con- 
dottiere. His vulture-like face was not softened by anything 
human; his puny figure ominously suggested calamity and 
misfortune. The other, grey-haired, corpulent and elegant, 
walked in an evening suit with -an air of studied arrogance. 
His face, once handsome, now expressed only conscious and 
sensuous complacency with the position he had won in life. 

No one greeted them. Only the rifles obediently clattered as 
the soldiers presented arms. Meanwhile, another group was 
approaching from the other direction, from the Church of the 
Madeleine. These were looking still stranger in their medieval 
mitres and chasubles, surrounded by attendants with censers, 
rosaries and prayer-books; they were like the shadows of the 
long past centuries of feudalism. 135 

Why were the two parties approaching each other? The one 
side protected by a hundred thousand bayonets had come to 



FROM THE OTHER SHORE #91 

proclaim the will of the people the code compiled under fire 
(and debated in the state of siegein the name of Liberty, 
Equality and Fraternity, while the other had corne to bless 
these fruits of philosophy and revolution in the name of the 
Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. 

The people did not so much as glance at this parody. They 
milled (about disconsolately near the common grave of their 
'brothers who had fallen for their sake near the June Column. 
Beyond -the cordons of the troops and armed bourgeois guards 
one could see only ia thin line of small shopkeepers, pedlars, 
concierges, waiters and our ilk, the foreign tourists. But even 
these bystanders listened with surprise to the speeches which 
could not be heard, gaped iat the theatrical attire of the judges 
red, black, with and without fur and blinked at the driving 
snow, at the files of soldiery rendered more formidable by the 
salvos audible from the esplanade of the Hotel des Invalides. 
The uniforms and the shooting brought back the diays of June 
and made the heart ache. All faces were troubled ias though 
conscious of guilt; some because they now felt like accomplices 
and others because they felt like abettors by their very toler- 
ance of the crime. Thousands of heads turned at the slightest 
disturbance as though expecting to hear the whining of bul- 
lets, the cries of insurgents and the measured ringing of the 
tocsin. The blizzard continued. Soaked to the skin the soldiers 
were murmuring. At last the drums struck up, the crowds be- 
gian to move .and an endless procession filed iaway to the weak 
strain of "Mourir pour la patrie" which had been substituted 
for the great Marseillaise. 

Approximately then the young man whose acquaintance we 
have already made 137 elbowed his way through the crowd 
towards ia middle-aged man and joyously exclaimed: "What 
a pleas-ant surprise! I didn't know you were here." 

"Why, hullo," said the other extending both hands. "Have 
you been here long?" 

"Just a few days." 

"Where from?" 

"From Italy." 

"Things are bad, aren't they?" 

"Very bad. . . . Awful." 



392 A. HER ZEN 

"Well, there you are, my dear dreamer and idealist. I knew 
you would not be able to resist the February temptation iand 
would bring much suffering to yourself. Suffering always goes 
with hope. You have always complained about the stagnation, 
the sleepiness of Europe. Can you reproach her for that now?" 

"Don't laugh. There are things one should not laugh at, no 
matter how sceptical we -are. Is this the time to joke, when 
tears have run dry? To tell the truth, I'm afraid to look 
back, to recollect: no more than a year has passed since we 
parted last and it seems like ia century ago. To see the finest 
aspirations, the most cherished hopes being fulfilled, to see the 
possibility of their realization and then to be so suddenly let 
down, to lose everything, and not in combat, not on the battle- 
field, but through our own impotence and incompetence. This 
is awful. I am ashamed to meet with the legitimists. They 
laugh at me quite openly and I feel they are right. What a school- 
ingnot of education, but of dulling the faculties. I am very glad 
to have run into you. I finally felt that I simply had to see you. 
In my mind's eye I quarrelled with you and made up; I wrote 
a lengthy letter to you .-and now am very glad that I tore it 
up. It was full of daring hopes of my triumph over you. Now 
I would like to have you assure me once and for all that the 
world is coming to an end, that there is no way out, that it is 
fated to be overgrown with weeds, and fall into decay. I know 
this will not make me unhappy, because I do not expect con- 
solation from a meeting with you. Listening to you, I feel 
worse and not better. . . . And I don't want to feel better. . . . 
Just convince me; and I'll take the first boat from Marseilles 
to America or to Egypt, anywhere away from Europe. I'm 
tired, can't stand it any longer. There is something wrong with 
me; it's in my breast, in my brain, I'll go mad if I stay." 

"There are scarcely any diseases more stubborn than ideal- 
ism. After what has happened I find you just as you were when 
we parted. You prefer to suffer rather than to understand. The 
idealists are spoilt and cowardly; I've already begged to be 
excused for saying this you know that I don't mean personal 
courage; there is in fact too much of that. The idealists are 
cowards when faced with the truth. You turn it down, you are 
afraid of the reality at variance with your theories. You think 



FROM THE OTHER SHORE 393 

that there is no salvation for the world but in the ways you 
have discovered. You would like the world to dance to your 
tune in exchange for your devotion. And as soon as you notice 
that it has its own steps tand rhythm you grow angry, despair 
and have not even the curiosity to watch the dancing." 

"Call it cowardice or stupidity or whatever you like, but 
really, I am not at 'all curious to watch this dance maoabre. 
I have no Roman predilection for scenes of horror, probably 
because I cannot appreciate the subtleties of the art of dying." 

"The quality of curiosity is measured by the value of the 
scene at hand. The audience iat the Colosseum was made up 
of the same idlers who thronged to the auto-da-fe or public 
executions, who today came to one place simply to fill the 
inner void and on another day to another to watch with equal 
zest the hanging of a hero. But there is another, a more 
praiseworthy .sort of curiosity that springs from healthier soil; 
this curiosity leads to study and knowledge; it is concerned 
with discovering the unknown parts of the globe, the sort of 
curiosity which inspires a man to expose himself to an infec- 
tion in order to study its properties." 

"In short, the sort of curiosity which is useful. But what is 
the use of watching the dying when you know that it is too 
late to help them? That is merely the poetry of curiosity." 

"To me this poetic curiosity, as you call it, seems very 
human. I respect Pliny who stayed in his boat to watch the 
eruption of Vesuvius, forgetful of the obvious personal danger. 
To go away would have been more prudent and at any rate 
more restful." 

"I understand the hint, but the comparison is not quite fit- 
ting. At Pompeii there was nothing else a man coul-d do but 
stay and watch or flee. Whether he would stay and watch or flee 
depended entirely on himself. But I want to flee not from dan- 
ger but -because I cannot stay any longer. To expose oneself to 
danger is easier than it seems from a distance. But to witness 
disaster with folded arms, conscious that one is useless, to 
know full well what could help, but be unable to explain or 
give directions; to watch idly while the people rush and 
stumble about crushing each other as though stricken with an 
epidemic of madness, while the whole of civilization vanishes 



394 A. HERZEN 

in a holocaust all this is beyond man's power. There was 
nothing to be done about Vesuvius, but in the world of history 
man is at home: he is more than ia spectator, he is a partici- 
pant and has ia voice of his own. And if he cannot act he must 
at least express his protest by absence." 

"Man is, of course, at home in history, but from your words 
one could infer that he is only a guest of nature's, as though 
there were a stone wall between nature and history. It seems 
to me that he is at home in both, but not dominant in either. 
Man is not mortified by nature's disobedience because its self- 
sufficiency is obvious to him. We believe in its reality being 
independent of ourselves, but we do not believe in the reality 
of history, especially modern. In history man labours under 
the delusion that he is unhampered and free to do whatever 
he chooses. All this is the bitter trace of dualism which has 
long made us see double and waver 'between two optical illu- 
sions. Though dualism has long lost its crudeness, it lingers 
inconspicuously in our hearts. Our language, our fundamental 
conceptions, become natural out of habit and repetition, ob- 
struct the truth. Had we -not known, from the age of five, that 
history and nature are two different things, we would have no 
difficulty in understanding that the evolution of nature passes 
imperceptibly into the evolution of man, that these are two 
chapters of a single novel, two phases of a single process, far 
removed from one another at their perimeters, but very close 
at the centre. We would in that case not be surprised to find 
that a portion of all that happens in history is governed by 
physiological and obscure urges. Needless to say, the laws of 
historical evolution do not contradict the precepts of logic, but 
they do not coincide with the ways of thought, just as nothing 
in nature coincides with the abstract standards set up by 
pure reason. Were we aware of this, we would take eagerly 
to the study and discovery of these physiological influences. 
Have we done so? Has anyone ever seriously studied the phys- 
iology of social life, history, as a really objective science? 
No, no one: neither the conservatives nor the radicals, neither 
the philosophers nor the historians." 

"But there has been a great deal of activity. Probably, be- 
cause it is as natural for us to make history as for a bee to 



FROM THE OTHER SHORE 395 

make honey, because history is not the result of meditation, 
but of the inner urges of man's spirit." 

'Of instinct, you mean? You are quite right: it is instinct 
which has guided and is still guiding the masses nowadays. 
But the situation has changed: we have lost that primitive 
keenness of instinct, our minds are so reflective that all the 
natural urges owing to which history struggles forward have 
been suppressed. We urban people tare equally destitute of 
physical and moral intuition. The tiller of the soil iand the 
seaman -can foretell the weather and we cannot. All that is left 
of our instincts is the restless desire for (activity and that is 
splendid. Conscious 'action, i. e., action which would complete- 
ly satisfy us, is as yet impossible we act by groping. We 
still try to force our thoughts and desires upon the environ- 
ment, iand these experiments, invariably unsuccessful, serve 
to educate us. You 'are annoyed because the people do not put 
into practice the ideas that are dear and perfectly clear to you, 
because they cannot save themselves by applying weapons you 
would offer them, and thereby cease to suffer. But what makes 
you think that it is precisely your idea that the people must 
effect iand not their own, that it should be done at a time you 
think best and not iat another? Are you sure that the measures 
you have thought up have no disadvantages? Are you really 
sure that the people understand them? Are you certain that 
there iare no other means, no broader purposes. You may hap- 
pen to divine what the people think, but that is a matter of 
luck and, likely as not, you will be mistaken. You and the 
masses belong to two different cultures. You are separated by 
centuries, by greater distances than the oceans crossed so 
easily nowadays. The masses are prompted by inner urges, 
by passionate impulses. In them thought is not separated 
from fantasy: it never remains mere theory as with us, but 
is immediately translated into action. It is difficult to incul- 
cate an idea into them because to them this is no trifling mat- 
ter. That is why they sometimes outdistance the boldest think- 
ers, carry them onward against their will, leave behind those 
whom they worshipped yesterday and fall behind others de- 
spite the obvious. They are capricious, clamourous and incon- 
stant like children and women. Instead of studvin^ this oecul- 



396 A. HERZEN 

iar physiology of mankind, instead of identifying ourselves 
with it iand discovering its ways and laws, we criticize, teach 
grow irritated and indignant, as though people or nature can 
be held responsible for anything, as though they care anything 
at 'all tas to whether we like or do not like their life which 
blindly impels them on towards vague aims and irrespon- 
sible 'actions. Hitherto this didactic -and priestly attitude has 
had some justification, but now it has become ludicrous and 
puts us in the trite role of the disillusioned. You lare offended 
by the developments in Europe, incensed by the obtuseness 
and brutality of triumphant reaction. So am I. But you who 
'are loyal to romanticism, have no patience .and would like to 
run away to (avoid the truth. I agree that it is time to give up 
our artificial, conventional life, but not by fleeing to Amer- 
ica. 138 What will you find there? The United States is the last 
de luxe edition of the same feudal-Christiian text, and in the 
crude English version iat that. A year iago there would have 
been nothing surprising about your departure the events 
then dragged on interminably, but how can you go awiay at 
the crucial turn of events, when everything in Europe is in fer- 
ment, when the age-old walls are crumbling, when one idol 
after (another comes crashing down, when they in Vienna have 
leiarned to build barricades. . . ." 

"And in Paris they have learned to smash them with oan- 
non fire, together with the idols. And the idols (which, inci- 
dentally, are set up again on the next day) bring down with 
them what is best in Europe, the things it has taken cen- 
turies of arduous labour to create. I have seen the trials, the 
executions and death, but I do not see resurrection or -mercy. 
This part of the world is finished. Its strength is gone. The 
people here have reached the end of their destiny; they have 
begun to grow dull and backward. 139 The mainstream of his- 
tory must have found tanother bed iand that is where I shall 
go. You yourself argued similarly last year, remember? Aboard 
a steamer from Genoa to Civitavecchia." 

"Yes, I remember, but that Wias before the storm. At that 
time, you objected, but now you agree with me much too fully. 
It is not life or experience that brought you to the new view 
and that is why there is something frantic labout it. You have 



FROM THE OTHER SHORE 397 

iarrived at this view par depit, through momentary despair 
with which you naively and unintentionally blanketed your 
former hopes. If this view of yours were not just the caprice 
of an annoyed lover, but simply a sober appraisal of the 
events, you would express yourself differently and regard 
things in a different wiay; you would give up that personal 
rancour; you would forget yourself, moved as you are and filled 
with horror at the tragedy before your eyes. But the ideal- 
ists are so chary of sefl-surrender, they are so egotistic, just 
like those monks who, suffering all deprivations, never lose 
sight of their personalities iand ultimate rewiard. Why are you 
afraid to stay? Do you- leave the theatre at the beginning o-f 
the fifth act of every tragedy, afnaid to upset your nerves? The 
fete of Oedipus will not be in the least mitigated just because 
you have left your box. He will perish just the same. It is bet- 
ter to see it out to the end: ia spectator oppressed by the mis- 
fortunes of Hamlet may yet meet young Fortinbras full of life 
and hope. And then, there is something great iand edifying in 
the very sight of death. . . The clouds brooding over Europe and 
stifling the air have burst into rain, into streaks of lightning; 
the earth is shaken by thunder and you want to run away 
because Radetzky has taken Milan and Cavaignac Paris. 
This is what comes of not recognizing the objectivity 
of history. I hate humbleness, but here humbleness means 
understanding. Here humbleness before history and its rec- 
ognition are quite in place. And besides, history is doing bet- 
ter than might be expected. Why should you be annoyed? We 
were about to waste away, to wither in the unhealthy and tire- 
some atmosphere of gradual senility and instead Europe has 
come down with typhus and not with marasmus. It is col- 
lapsing, fading away iand delirious and in its convulsions 
both parties are wandering in mind and recognize neither 
themselves nor their enemies. The fifth act of the tragedy be- 
gan on February 24. The tremulous spirit is quite natural- 
no serious person would be cheerful under the circumstances 
but this is far from that despair -and those views of yours. 
You imagine that you are despairing because you are a revolu- 
tionary, but you tare mistaken: you are despairing because you 
are a conservative." 



398 A. HERZEN 

"Thank you, much obliged. So according to you I can be 
lumped together with Radetzky and Windischgratz." 140 

"No, you are much worse. What sort of ia conservative is 
Riadetzky! Crushing everything in his way, he very nearly 
blew up the Milan Cathedral. Do you really imagine that it is 
conservatism which makes the barbarous Croats assault Aus- 
trian cities and raze them to the ground? Neither they nor 
their general realize what they are doing, but it is certain that 
they conserve nothing. You are too apt to judge by the ban- 
ners: those colours are the emperor's and therefore conserva- 
tive, while the others are the republic's and therefore revolu- 
tionary. But nowadays you will find monarchy and conserv- 
atism on both sides. The most pernicious sort of conservatism 
is to be found on the side of the republic, the sort you are 
preaching." 

"But it would be good if you would explain just what I 
am trying to conserve and in what my revolutionary conserv- 
atism consists." 

"Aren't you annoyed because the constitution proclaimed 
today is so stupid?" 

"Of course." 

"Aren't you angry because the movement in Germany has 
vanished in the sink of Frankfurt, because Charles Albert 141 
could not preserve the independence of Italy, because Pius IX 
has turned out to be as bad as can be?" 

"What of it? I don't deny that." 

"But this exactly is conservatism. If your wishes had been 
fulfilled, the old world would have been solemnly vindi- 
cated. 142 Everything would have been vindicated but the rev- 
olution." 143 

"So we should be happy that the Austrians have conquered 
Lombardy?" 

"Why be happy? Neither be happy nor surprised; Lombardy 
could not free itself by demonstrations in Milan and the help of 
Charles Albert." 

"It's all very well to be discussing this sub specie aeterni- 
tatis here. . . But then, I know how to distinguish -between a 
person and his dialectics. I'm sure you would forget all your 



FROM THE OTHER SHORE 399 

theories iat the sight of the heaps of corpses, of the plundered 
cities, violated women and the savages in white uniforms." 

"Instead of 'answering, you appeal to compassion which is 
always successful. Everyone has a heart unless he is a spiritual 
monster. It is as easy to evoke pity with the fate of Milan as 
with the fate of the Princess of Lamballe. To pity is human. 
Never believe Lucretius who said that there is nothing more 
delightful than watching a sinking ship from the shore. That 
is poetic calumny. The accidental victims of savagery always 
outrage our sense of morality. I have not seen Radetzky in 
Milan, but I've seen the plague in Alexandria. I know that such 
scourges are a humiliation and insult to man, but to do nothing 
more than lament is puny and futile. In the soul indignation 
is accompanied by the irrepressible desire to react, to struggle, 
to make enquiries, to find ways and means and delve into the 
causes. Sensitivity alone will not solve these problems. The 
physicians will confer over a serious case not at all in the same 
way in which the patient is lamented by his fond relatives: in- 
wardly they may weep with compassion, but to fight the disease 
they must display knowledge and not shed tears. And finally, 
however much the physician is attached to the patient, he must 
not be flustered and lose his head in the face of death, though 
he. knew it to be inevitable. On the whole, of course, you are 
right to pity the people who died in the upheaval and the 
debacle. To be insensible to suffering one must 'be brought up 
to be callous. Those who have no compassion for their neigh- 
boursthe generals, the ministers, judges, hangmen have all 
their lives deliberately estranged themselves from mankind. Had 
they not done so, they would have got nowhere. Your sorrow is 
justified and I offer no consolation but of a qualitative nature. 
Remember that everything that happened from the rebellion in 
Palermo to the fall of Vienna has not cost Europe even a third 
of the men who fell at Eylau, for instance. Our notions are so 
confused that we do not count the dead who fell in the ranks to 
which they had not been brought by their convictions or the 
desire to fight, but by the civil plague called enlistment. Those 
who died at the barricades at least knew what they were dying 
for. As for the others, if they could have but heard the begin- 
ning of the parley between the two emperors amidstream, they 



400 A. HERZEN 

would have blushed for their courage on the battle-field. 'Why 
are we fighting?' asked Napoleon. 'It is only a misunderstand- 
ing/ 'There is really no reason to fight/ agreed Alexander and 
the two kissed. Scores of thousands of soldiers had laid down 
their lives and taken the lives of others with astonishing cour- 
age because of a misunderstanding. No matter how great 
their number, they deserve pity, deep pity. But it seems to me 
that you are grieving not only for the people, but over some- 
thing else." 

"Among other things, I grieve for the revolution of Februa- 
ry 24, which began so gloriously and died so inconspicuously. 
The republic was a possibility, I saw it myself, I breathed its 
air. It was not -a day-dream, but reality. And what has become 
of it? I am sorry for it, as I am sorry for Italy which was 
awakened only to be vanquished on the next day, as I 'am sorry 
for Germany which rose to full stature only to collapse at the 
feet of its thirty landed princes. I -am sorry because mankind 
has retreated by an entire generation, that the movement has 
again been halted and crushed. 

"As for the movement, it can't be stopped. Today, more than 
ever, the motto is semper in motu. You see, I was right when 
I reproached you of conservatism; it verges on inconsistency 
in you. Wasn't it you who, about a year ago, complained of 
the -moral degradation of the educated classes of France? And 
now you have suddenly come to believe that they may turn 
republicans overnight just because the people had thrown out 
the stubborn old man and permitted the weak-willed theophi- 
lanthropist 144 surrounded by petty journalists to take the place 
of the persevering Quaker 145 surrounded by petty diplomats/' 

"It is easy to be so -discerning after the events," 

"It was not difficult at that time either: February 26 defined 
the character of February 24. All the non-conservatives well 
understood that the republic was only a play of words: Blan- 
qui and Proudhon, Raspail 146 and Pierre Leroux. It was not 
the gift of prophecy, but the habit of conscientious study, the 
power of observation that was necessary that is why I recom- 
mend that the mind be trained and disciplined by natural 
science. The naturalist is accustomed to observe and to wait, 
without introducing anything of his own for the time being. 



FROM THE OTHER SHORE 401 

He will never overlook a single sign of change. He seeks the 
truth disinterestedly without 'admixing either love or hatred. 
Remember that the most discerning publicist of the first revo- 
lution was a veterinary 147 and that it was a chemist* who on 
February 27, in his magazine burned by the students in 
Quiartier Latin, wrote the things now apparent to -all and not 
to be undone. It was unpardonable to expect anything from 
the political surprise of February 24 but a state of unrest. It 
was on that day that the unrest began and that in itself is its 
greiat result. It is impossible to deny the state of unrest, the 
thing that drives France and the whole of Europe from tremor 
to tremor. Did you expect or desire this? Of course not; you 
anticipated that the prudent republic would stand on the 
rickety legs of Lamartine's eulogy, wrapped in Ledru-Rollin's 
bulletins. That would have been ia world-wide catastrophe. 
Such a republic would have served as a most efficient brake 
upon the wheels of history. The republic of the Provisional 
Government based on the old monarchical principles would be 
more pernicious than tany monarchy. It would appear not as 
absurd tyranny, but as a voluntary agreement, not as an histor- 
ical disaster, but as something just and rational with its blind 
majority of votes and falsehood on its banners. The word 
'republic' would then have enjoyed such moral prestige as no 
throne enjoys any longer. Using its name for deception it 
would have bolstered the crumbling state system. The reaction 
has saved the movement; it has thrown off its mask and there- 
by saved the revolution. The people who would otherwise have 
been drugged by Lamartine's laudanum have been sobered by 
the three months' state of siege. They now know what the 
suppression of discontent means according to the concepts of 
the republic of this kind. The things which were understood 
only by a few have become clear to all: everybody knows that 
it is not Cavaignac who is to blame for everything, that it is 
stupid to put the blame on the executioner, that he is more 
abominable than guilty. It was the reactionaries themselves 
who cut down the last of the idols behind which the old system 
had been lurking as behind an altar. The people no longer 



* Raspail A.H. 



402 A. HER ZEN 

believe in the republic and so much the better: it is time to 
cease to believe in iany cure-all creed. The creed of the repub- 
lic was appropriate in '93. At that time it was grand, colossal 
and produced that chain of great events which concluded the 
long era of political upheavals. 148 A purely .formal republic 
appeared after the June days. At present, the incompatibility 
of fraternity 'and equality with those traps known as the 
assizes, of liberty with those slaughters sanctioned by court- 
martial is becoming evident. No one now believes the packed 
juries which decide the fate of people in a game of blind- 
man's-buff allowing no appeal. Nobody believes in a civic 
system which defends property alone and exiles people as a 
measure of public safety, and maintains at least a .hundred 
regulars who stand ready unquestioningly to press the trigger 
at the word of command. And that is why the reaction is use- 
ful. Doubt has been unleashed; it fills the mind and makes 
people think. And this was a point not easily reached, espe- 
cially by the French who, for all their keenness, are very dull 
in comprehending what is new. The same has happened in 
Germany; Berlin and Vienna succeeded at first. They were 
about to rejoice over their Diets, 149 over their charters for 
which they had been timorously sighing for thirty-five years. 
Now that they have seen the reaction and have learned by 
experience what all those Diets and Chambers are, they will 
no longer be satisfied with any charter granted or seized. To 
the Germans such things have become what a toy, about 
which he has dreamed as a child, becomes to the grown man. 
Thanks to the reaction, Europe has realized that a representa- . 
tive system is a clever device to sublimate public needs, and 
urge for action into words and interminable debates. Instead 
of being glad of this, you are angry. You are wrought 
up because, moved by cowardice, the National Assembly, con- 
sisting of reactionaries and invested with absurd power, voted 
for an absurdity. And in my opinion this is the best proof that 
there is no need either for those universal councils of legisla- 
ture or for the representatives resembling high priests, and 
that now it is impossible to vote for a sound constitution. Is it 
not ridiculous to write out a code for the generations to come 
when the decrepit world has hardly time somehow to make its 



FROM THE OTHER SHORE 403. 

spiritual will for the future. You do not -applaud all these 
failures just because you are -a conservative, because, 
consciously or not, you belong to this world. Though -angry 
and indignant over it Last year, you did not wiant to let it go, 
and for this you were punished by disillusion on Februa- 
ry 24. You had come to believe that the world could be saved 
by household recipes, such as propaganda, reforms, etc., that 
it could be rejuvenated without alteration. You believed that it 
could reform and you still do. Should there be a riot on some 
street, or should the French proclaim Ledru-Rollin president, 
you will again go into raptures. This is pardonable while you 
are young, but I do not -advise you to keep it up long; you 
will grow ridiculous. You have a live, receptive nature so 
climb over the last barrier, shake the last dust from your boots 
and you will be convinced that little revolutions, little repub- 
lics and small changes are not enough: their scope is too nar- 
row and they soon lose all interest. Don't surrender to them. 
They are all tainted with conservatism. I give them their due, 
of course. They have their good sides. In Rome, under Pius 
IX, life has become better than under the drunken and vicious 
Gregory XVI. In some respects the republic of February 26 
affords a better medium for new ideas than the monarchy. Yet, 
all these palliatives are as harmful as they are useful the 
momentary relief they bring make one forget one's illness. And 
then, when you get a closer view of those improvements, when 
you see with what wry, displeased faces the improvements are 
made and that every concession looks like a humiliating 
charity grudgingly given, you lose all desire to set a high 
value on these favours. I cannot choose between modes of 
slavery, as I cannot choose between religions. My senses have 
been blunted; I can no longer distinguish between the sub- 
tleties. I cannot say just which sort of slavery is worse and 
which is better; which religion is nearer to salvation and 
which is further from it; which is more oppressive: the honest 
republic or the honest monarchy, the revolutionary conserva- 
tism of R-adetzky, or the conservative revolutionism of Cavaig- 
nac; who are the more vulgar: the Quakers or the Jesuits; or 
which is worse: the whip or the crapaudine. m There is slavery 
on both sides. On the one side it is subtle, disguised as free- 



404 A. HER ZEN 

dom and consequently dangerous; on the other, it is savage, 
brutal 'and consequently conspicuous. Fortunately, the two do 
not discern how similar they tare, and are ever ready to engage 
in -battle. Let them fight as they will, form coalitions, claw and 
drive each other to the grave. Whichever wins, the false or the 
brutal, it shall at the outset be no victory of ours; but then, it 
will be no victory of theirs either. The winners will only 
manage to celebrate boisterously for ,a day or two." 

"With us looking en, as always, as the eternal spectators, 
the pitiful jurymen whose verdict is ignored, the witnesses 
whose evidence nobody needs? I am surprised at you; but I 
don't know whether to envy you or not. With such an active 
mind >as yours, you how shall I put it you show so much 
restraint." 

"What shall I do? I won't do anything against my inclina- 
tion. Sincerity and independence are my idols. I won't rally to 
either banner. Both parties are so well on the way to the grave- 
yard that my help is superfluous. There are precedents too. 
What part could the early Christians have taken in the 
struggle of the Roman pretenders to the throne? They were 
called cowards, but they just smiled and carried on, praying 
and preaching." 

'They preached because they were strong of faith and in the 
unity of their creed. Where is our Gospel, the new life to which 
we summon, the holy message which we are destined to herald 
to the world?" 

"Preach the message of death, show the people every fresh 
wound on the bosom of the old world, every success of de- 
struction. Point to the impotency of its enterprise, the pettiness 
of its aspirations. Show that it cannot recover, that it has 
neither support nor belief in itself, that nobody truly loves it, 
that it continues to exist owing to misunderstanding. Show 
that every one of its victories is but a blow to itself. Preach 
death as the holy message of impending redemption." 

"Perhaps better pray than preach? To whom are you going 
to preach when the victims are being mowed down on both 
sides. It was only an Archbishop of Paris 151 who did not know 
that in times of combat no one will listen. Let us wait a while 
yet: no one will hinder us in the immense graveyard when all 



FROM THE OTHER SHORE 405 

the fighters will lie stretched side by side. And who can listen 
to the eulogy to death more readily than the dead? If things 
continue as they do, the world will present a queer sight: the 
future that is coming will perish together with the senile past, 
the abortive democracy will die clawing, the cold and ema- 
ciated breast of the monarchy." 

"A future which dies is no future. Democracy, in the main, 
is the present. It is the struggle, the renunciation of the hier- 
archy, of social injustices accumulated in the past; it is the 
purifying flame which will scorch away. the obsolete forms iand 
which will, of course, be extinguished when the combustibles 
are consumed. Democracy can create nothing; nor is it sup- 
posed to. It itself will be an absurdity after the death of its 
last enemy. The democrats know (to use Cromwell's words) 
what they do not want, but what they do want, they do not 
know." 

"The knowledge of what we do not want conceals the antic- 
ipation of what we do want. This is the basis of an idea so 
often repeated that I feel embarrassed to quote it, the idea that 
every destruction is a kind of creation. Mian cannot be content 
with destruction ialone. It is against his creative nature. To 
preach death, we must have faith in resurrection. The Chris- 
tians could readily proclaim the end of the ancient world; its 
funenal coincided with a birth and a christening." 

"We have not the anticipation ialone, but something more. 
Only, we tare not as easily satisfied as the early Christians. 
Their one criterion was faith, and they, of course, found relief 
in unwavering certainty that the church would triumph and 
the world would be baptized. But it never occurred to them 
that the newly christened child might turn ou^ different than 
its godparents expected. Christianity has remained a pious 
hope. Now, on the eve of death, it is still consoled, as in the 
first century, by the promise of heaven and paradise without 
heaven it is lost. The propagation of the idea of a new life is 
incomparably more difficult in our times. We have no heaven, 
no divine city. Our city is human and has to be built on the 
same soil on which M things real exist. We cannot revert to 
the temptations of the devil, or God's intercession, or the after- 
life. Nor does democracy go so far. It itself stands on Chris- 



406 A. IIERZEN 

tian shores and has an infinite quantity of ascetic romanti- 
cism and liberal idealism. It possesses a terrific power for 
destruction, but no sooner does it take to creating than it is 
lost in puerile trials and political studies. Of course, destruc- 
tion too is creative: it clears the site and this 'already is crea- 
tion. It rejects a number of lies, and this already is the truth. 
But there is no real creative power in democracy and, there- 
fore, it is not the future. The future stands outside of politics. 
It is hovering over the chaos of all the political tand social 
trends iand will use their shreds to weave a new cloth to serve 
as -a shroud for the old and swaddling clothes for the new. It 
is socialism that corresponds to the teachings of the Nazarene 
in the days of the Roman Empire." 

"If you recollect what you have just said -about Christianity 
and sustain the comparison, the future of socialism will be far 
from enviable: it will remain a hope everlasting." 

"And while doing so, it will on its way unfold the brilliant 
period of history under its aegis. The Gospel has not come 
trueand there was no need for this while what has come 
true -are the Middle Ages, the era of restoration, the era of 
revolution. But Christianity has penetrated into (all these phe- 
nomena; it has taken part in them, instructed and guided 
them. The fulfilment of socialism will also constitute .an unex- 
pected combination of abstract teachings and existing facts. 
Life puts only that aspect of thought into effect which finds a 
fitting soil. And the soil does not remain a passive medium, 
but contributes its fluids and introduces its own elements. The 
new which arises out of the struggle of Utopias and conserva- 
tism, emerges into life quite different than the one or the other 
side expected. It stands transfigured, is made up of memories 
and hopes, of what exists and what will exist, of traditions and 
fresh enterprise, of beliefs and knowledge, of the Romans who 
have ceased to live and the Germans who have yet to live, and 
who are linked by a single church alien to -both. Ideals and 
schemes never come true as we imagine them." 

'Then how and why do they enter our minds? What irony!" 

"And why do you demand that the mind of man should be 
cut to his needs and nothing more? Why should we so prosai- 
cally reduce everything to the strictly necessary, to the rigor- 



FROM THE OTHER SHORE 407 

ously useful, to the inevitably applicable? Let us remember 
old Lear's reaction when his daughter diminished the number 
of servants, assuring him that he need no more: 'Allow not 
mature more than nature needs, man's life is as cheap ias 
beast's.' Man's fantasy and thought is incomparably freer 
than generally supposed. There are worlds of poetry and 
thought, to some extent independent of the environment, which 
lie dormant in the soul of every man. Stirred by an impulse, 
they ^awake with their visions, theories <and projects. Resorting 
to the facts, thought strives towards realization of universal 
values and tries to escape into logical spheres from transient 
and accidental definitions. But it is a far cry from the logical 
to the practical spheres." 

"Hearing your words, I can't help wondering why there is 
so much objective justice in you? And I have found the reason: 
you tare out of the stream; you haven't been caught up in the 
current. An outsider is always a sounder judge of family affairs 
than the members of the family themselves. But if, like many, 
like Barbes 1 ^ or Mazzini, you had worked all your life because 
of the inner voice of your conscience which commanded such 
work, tand which you could not silence because it spoke from 
the very depths of the heart hurt by oppression iand contract- 
ing at the